Liverpool dock scene to change again

January 2018 - Following on the loss of the iconic Lightship, Planet, from Liverpool's Canning dock after Canal & River Trust towed it to Sharpness and sold it for a fraction of its value it seems more, much-photographed, vessels are about to depart Salthouse Dock, as Peter Underwood reports.

Three colourful and eccentric apartment boats, popular with tourists visiting Liverpool are about to be moved from C&RT pontoons in Salthouse Dock, alongside the tourist honeypot of the Albert Dock.

The privately owned wide-beam boats, which have been adapted to look like a sinking Titanic, the Yellow Submarine of Beatles fame and The Joker's lair have been a feature of Salthouse dock for many years and are some of the most photographed vessels in the Albert Dock complex.

Now they are moving a mile or so to the private Liverpool Marina, in Brunswick Dock at the southernmost end of the southern docks owned and operated by C&RT. The funnels of the Titanic have already been removed for the journey under several low bridges and all three vessels will depart in the coming weeks.

The loss of the vessels will detract from the tourism potential of the dock but C&RT has plans to introduce a water taxi service along the length of the southern docks and invited tenders in the second half of 2017.
The Trust has confirmed that the tendering process for the water taxi is complete but is curiously coy about who has been awarded the contract and when it will start.

A spokesperson for the Canal & River Trust said: “The tender process for the provision of a water taxi within the Liverpool South Docks has now concluded. Due to commercial confidentiality agreements we are not in a position to announce the operator or further details of the service at this time, but expect to be able to do so towards the summer.”

Despite being pressed, the Trust refused to expand on that. The rumour locally is that the contract has been awarded to a business that doesn't currently have a boat with which to operate a service.

The docks immediately adjacent to the historic Albert Dock are a magnet for tourists all year round and sometimes host major events, like the round-the-world Clipper Race and the Tall Ships.

Given C&RT's need to make friends and influence people it would seem an opportunity missed not to operate a water taxi under it's own colours, promoting it's stewardship of the docks and the Liverpool Link.

However, the obsession with contracting out almost every function persists at the highest levels within C&RT, despite the grim message of the Carillion collapse.

Photos: (1st) Liverpool Marina - new home of the apartment boats, (2nd) Planet took centre stage on an artist's panorama in Liverpool's museum, (3rd) Historic ships are frequent visitors, (4th) The three apartment boats moving out of C&RT's Salthouse Dock moorings. The Titanic has already has its funnels removed, (5th) Visitor moorings in Salthouse Dock, increasingly popular with boaters, (6th) Albert Dock apartments.

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