The Liverpool (England) City Council has agreed to pay back nearly $14 million in government grants, clearing the way to use Liverpool as a homeport.
The grants had been issued by the U.K. Department of Transport to build a cruise terminal for exclusively for port calls. After the terminal was constructed, city officials said they wanted to use the facility as a homeport. That spurred a year-long debate with government officials in rival port Southampton, who cried foul about competing with a port that received a U.K. subsidy.
According to a statement from the city council, Liverpool can pay the $14 million in a lump sum or repay the funds over 15 years at a total cost of close to $20 million.
The city council predicted that Liverpool eventually would attract a 5% share of the U.K. cruise market; Southampton currently has a market share of over 65%.
“For far too long, holiday makers in the north have had to travel to and from other places to start their journeys, and this will return Liverpool to its rightful place as a major cruise port,” said Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson.
Some U.S.-based cruise lines are planning to add capacity to the growing U.K. market.
Celebrity Cruises, for example, in summer 2013 will boost its capacity in the U.K. by 70% when it deploys the 2,050-passenger Celebrity Infinity to Harwich, England. The 2,852-passenger Celebrity Eclipse will sail from Southampton.
According to UBS Research Investment analysts, the U.K. is the largest and most developed of the European source markets, with its 1.7 million cruisers in 2011 representing roughly 28% of the European market.
For cruise news and updates, follow Donna Tunney on Twitter @dttravelweekly.