Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Creekside Forum (TT 09)



  1.  We are a small community group based in Deptford, south-east London. Our interest in this matter is explained in Annex 1.


  2.  We attended the committee's evidence session on 23 June 2004 and read the written submissions that were available. We were disappointed by the very limited amount of evidence regarding cruise ships. The leisure cruise industry has grown enormously over the last two decades.

  3.  Over the last three years we have become aware of both the general lack of awareness in the UK of how successful the international cruise liner industry is and some ambivalence to the idea that this country might enjoy its share of the economic benefits. Reference has been made elsewhere[2]to the maritime sector having ". . . slipped below people's radar". Over recent decades freight handling has moved out of our major cities to estuarine and coastal ports far away from the eyes of both print journalism and the electronic media.

  4.  Cruise liners are the most visible of ships, drawing the public's eye wherever they moor. This is in the heart of major cities to a far greater extent than cargo vessels. The Queen Mary 2, flying the Red Ensign, has raised the profile of British shipping everywhere she has travelled both at home and abroad.


  5.  Crewing levels on cargo vessels have greatly diminished in recent years. Paying passengers, however, are disinclined to travel on vessels that appear to them to be understaffed. As a general rule of thumb cruise ships are staffed at a ratio of about one crew member per two passengers. Individual cruise liners create more seagoing employment than a fleet of cargo vessels. Minerva II, named in London last year and returning this summer, has a crew capacity of 376. The Europa and the Silver Cloud, both due in London this August, have crew capacities of 264 and 210 respectively.[3]


  6.  Passenger perceptions are a relevant issue in the flagging of cruise ships. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) operate a robust inspection regime which ensures that UK registered vessels are maintained and operated to a high standard. The government might do more to ensure that this quality assurance aspect of UK registration is known both to the international travel industry and through them seagoing passengers. In conjunction with the tonnage tax more cruise ships might be attracted to UK registration and management.

  7.  Raised in isolation, the question of onboard marriages contributes to an image of cruise liners being peripheral to the UK shipping industry. This is somewhat unfortunate. In context marriage cruises are a discreet sector of the world cruise offer. Given the breadth of inspections carried out by the MCA, ensuring that the onboard wedding chapel is up to the same standard as any premises licensed for marriages in England would seem a simple and straightforward task. As many UK citizens are presently getting married on foreign registered vessels it is hard to see any principled objection to such marriages onboard British registered cruise ships.


  8.  There is a stark contrast between the venerable British shipping institutions and the younger and brasher international cruise liner industry. Whilst the UK shipping institutions appear to be almost entirely dominated by men in dark suits there are many women owners and senior managers in the cruise industry. The Government should monitor the issue so as to ensure that it is not a barrier to cruise lines registering their ships in the UK or locating their strategic management here.

  9.  A civil servant giving evidence to the committee on the 23rd referred to tracking officer cadets by name. She would therefore already have a reasonable idea of the gender and ethnicity of those currently being trained. As this training is effectively provided at the UK taxpayers' expense it is particularly important that the government should ensure equality of opportunity for citizens seeking to embark on a maritime career. The collation and publication of relevant statistics would be a first step in this process.


  10.  It is vitally important to the health of the British shipping industry as a whole that the government ensures that the opportunities afforded by the tonnage tax are as open to cruise lines as any other part of the shipping industry.

  11.  The international cruise liner industry is a dynamic and growing sector of world shipping. Highly profitable and employing large numbers of seafarers we are surprised that it has such a low UK policy profile. Might we be so bold as to suggest that, at its earliest convenience, the committee holds an inquiry into whether the UK is taking proper advantage of the extensive economic opportunities afforded by the cruise liner industry?

Bill Ellson

Creekside Forum

July 2004

Annex 1


  1.  The Creekside Forum was established in 1997 as a joint sub-committee of Deptford Community Forum and Greenwich Waterfront Community Forum in order to give local people a voice in the Building Bridges Creekside SRB2. The SRB project has long since finished and the now independent Creekside Forum finds itself at the centre of a maelstrom of developer interest. Our current membership is around 300 individuals and organisations.


  2.  The largest individual development site in the area is Convoys Wharf, which until early 2000 handled imports of newsprint. During the early 1990s tonnages steadily increased and there were aspirations of reaching one million tonnes per annum. However in the late 1990s the Greenwich Lorry Ban was introduced which added considerably to the time and cost of delivering paper landed at the wharf and the trade moved to Felixstowe and Chatham.


  3.  In late 2000 it became apparent that the site owners intended to seek planning permission for residential development prior to disposal of the site. Since that time we have facilitated a regular gathering, under the name Convoys Opportunity, of community organisations, churches, businesses and others to ensure a local say in the future of site.

  4.  A clear aspiration to maximise employment arose from these meetings. Out of that desire emerged the idea of locating London's long wished for cruise liner terminal[4]on the 25 acres (just over half the site) protected for freight use. The safeguarding order was originally made by John Gummer in 1997 and confirmed by John Prescott in 2000 when the office of Mayor of London was created. London Plan policies include a sequential test (4C 106) that whereby when a wharf is no longer viable for freight use then other maritime uses should be considered first.

  5.  The Port of London Authority (PLA) are now taking the lead in progressing plans to develop a permanent cruise liner facility at Convoys Wharf. They have commissioned engineering and marketing reports that have confirmed the physical suitability of the wharf and that such a facility would attract over a hundred liners per year. The Chair, Simon Sherrard, and the Chief Executive, Steve Cuthbert have publicly set out the need for a permanent cruise liner terminal on a number of occasions and have made clear that Convoys is their preferred site.

  Such a cruise liner terminal would give both the Port of London and the international shipping community a visible focus within the capital that has been lacking for decades.


  6.  It is that visible focus that we are promoting, at a regional level, in response to the planning application by Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP), for 3,500 residential units. At a local level we are concentrating on the employment and other economic opportunities arising from the terminal and other marine uses. RRP's application is likely to be considered by Lewisham Council's planning committee in September or October this year.

2   Bosses launch distress flare over recruitment as old seadogs fade away; Guardian, 21 June 2004. Back

3   Crew capacity figures from Convoys Wharf Cruise Terminal Feasibility Assessment: Locum Destination Consulting for the Port of London Authority, October 2003. Back

4   See River Thames Working Party report 1994 (Chaired by Steve Norris, then Minister for Transport in London). Back

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