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Southampton vs Liverpool in 'state aid' row

Southampton has launched a broadside against Liverpool in a bitter dispute over state aid for the cruise industry.

The city council’s leader, Royston Smith, has written to transport secretary Philip Hammond demanding a “level playing field” and opposing plans to spend public money on a turnaround port in Liverpool.

Cllr Smith said: “The Port of Southampton has positioned itself as the cruise capital of northern Europe by means of private investment.

“Liverpool must do likewise. It’s not about protecting our position or trying to create a monopoly. If Liverpool wish to compete with Southampton let them repay their public subsidy and compete on a level playing field. To do otherwise is an abuse of public funding and must be considered as ‘state aid’.”

Southampton said its turnaround port expected around 360 cruise visits next year, bringing in £400m to the local economy. A fifth cruise terminal being built in the city by Associated British Ports (ABP) at a cost of £30m, due to open in 2013, will cater for an extra 90 cruise calls a year.

ABP, which owns Southampton’s docks, has been lobbying against the upgrading of Liverpool’s Pier Head terminal to offer a full turnaround facility.

Merseyside MPs, business leaders, cruise liners and local newspapers have been campaigning for the upgrade and say Southampton should enjoy its own success but not lobby for a monopoly position.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Tommy Molloy   24/07/2012 at 16:15

Southampton;clearely need and should think very very carefull about the gigantic hole that they are digging for themselves by trying to take on the port of Liverpool.Never in a million years could they or for that matter anybody else in the UK compeat with the waterfront which is a world heretage sight;which is also 5 minuet walk to a fantastic; modern city centre boasting 2 cathedals and more listed buildings,muesems art gallarys and a fantastic sporting and musical heretage so Southampton tread very carefull as other cruise line companys have done there homework on the GREAT PORT OF LIVERPOOL.

Puzzled   24/07/2012 at 16:43

Am I missing something? Isn't public money paid out to disadvantaged areas to help them to compete? What Southampton is really saying is that THEY are frightened of competing against Liverpool, because (given a free choice) they know where the cruise passengers would prefer to spend their time!

Tommy Molloy   24/07/2012 at 19:11

Southampton conviniently forgets about all the public money it recieved for the roads built directly into the port ,the truth is the port of Southampton wants the whole of the cruise market and in reality its running scared by what the port of Liverpool and the city is now offering in tourisim.The amount of people who now want cruise out Liverpool is vast the cruise line companys know this.

John Godfrey   10/09/2012 at 12:22

Whilst it can be argued that Southampton has had a virtual monopoly on the cruise market for a considerable number of years this has been as a result of private investment by ABP and others over the course of time not with assistance of public money. The Southampton/Liverpool argument is similar to that of the Southampton/Felixstowe debate regarding the development of deep water container traffic. Much of the debate relates to natural accessibility to the port side by vessels and also to the geographic location of the ports. In the case of the Southampton/Felixstowe debate the latter port is well situated to service vessels on worldwide transit which have, or are likely to call at Antwerp or Rotterdam to load/off-load containers to/from mainland Europe. At both these points there is significant rail infrastructure which allows fast transfer of containers from sea to rail on onwards transportation across Europe. Likewise Southampton, unlike Liverpool, has dedicated rail access to its Cruise terminals and indeed these are used by charter trains ferrying cruise passengers from Scotland and the North Ease/North West of England on a regular basis. Does the port of Liverpool plans include such a dedicated rail link and is it both physically and financially viable to provide such a link? Who would foot the bill for such development works - the fare paying passengers of the rest of the rail network, private or public money? The comment made regarding the lack of interesting places in Southampton as compared to Liverpool is a poor shot - without the Beatles would Liverpool be an iconic location today? Similarly would Southampton be as famous if not for its association with the Titanic? At the end of the day it is down to which city provides for and has the ability to sustain the level of cruise activity. Clearly Southampton has the lead hand due to experience, availability of terminals and infrastructure already in place. I would hope there is sufficient demand in the marketplace for both cities to continue to play an important part in the over UK experience. The cruise debate

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