New ferry to cross the Mersey as first upgrade for 60 years announced

Liverpool mayor welcomes contract for addition to fleet amid criticism boat will be built in the Netherlands

They are older than the Gerry and the Pacemakers song that made them world famous, but now the Mersey ferries have been granted an addition to the fleet – 60 years after the last one was built.

A new, more environmentally friendly ferry is being built to add to the current fleet and an older one will be refurbished, as part of a funding programme to regenerate parts of the River Mersey.

The Liverpool metro mayor, Steve Rotheram, said the new ferry will be greener than the current fleet, which are “becoming harder and harder to maintain”.

“The Mersey ferries are not only a vital transport link between communities in the Liverpool city region, they’re also an important part of our identity,” he said.

“They’re well-loved by both residents and tourists alike, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to our area each year. But, as the current vessels are older than the Gerry and the Pacemakers song that helped make them world famous, they are becoming harder and harder to maintain and definitely in need of an upgrade.”

He added: “It’s fantastic news for the region, and a fitting way to continue the legacy of Gerry Marsden and the Mersey ferries. There have been boats crossing the Mersey since the 12th century and, thanks to our investment, here they’ll stay.”

The contract to build the new ferry will be awarded to Cammell Laird whose Merseyside shipyard has built 15 Mersey ferries going as far back as 1836 and maintains the current fleet. However the company will be working in partnership with Damen shipyard in the Netherlands.

According to Rotherham’s office the exact details of how and where work on the new vessel takes place are to be worked through by Cammell Laird and Damen. But the outsourcing of production to the Netherlands has been criticised by Unite, which said the new ferry should be built on Merseyside.

Government rules forced the Liverpool city region bosses to put the contract out to tender across Europe, despite having the Cammell Laird shipyard on the Mersey.

The company, which employs nearly 700 workers locally, has been granted a contract to refurbish one of the current fleet.

The Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “This is a complete betrayal of a local and highly skilled workforce, it defies belief that a new Mersey ferry won’t be built on the river the ship will serve.

“This is a wholesale failure of the government’s procurement policy, which continues to undermine strategic British industries and threatens jobs and skills.”

The work is part of a 20-year strategy, which also includes multimillion-pound upgrades to Seacombe ferry terminal and the Eureka! Science + Discovery attraction.

• This article was amended on 9 November 2022. An earlier version said that the contract has been handed to Damen shipyard in the Netherlands. Liverpool Metro Mayor’s office has clarified that the contract will be awarded to Cammell Laird who will work in partnership with Damen.


Robyn Vinter

The GuardianTramp

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