New questions on the case of a ferry project


The case for a new Liverpool ferry terminal could be hollowed out below the waterline as it turned out the project is several million pounds over budget.

Already a year late, the program will not be completed until March 2022 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Steam Packet will continue to use the Pier Head Terminal until the end of the Quick Crafting season next year.

This week at the House of Keys, Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker has repeatedly blamed Covid, the Luftwaffe and the design of the new Steam Packet ship for the delays. He told MHK that the delays and disruption caused by Covid have cost around £ 5million and increasing.

The cost of the site reclamation work, including the treatment of unexploded war bombs, will add an additional 5% on top of the project value.

But Mr Baker said there would also be a substantial additional cost to protect the quay wall from the ferry’s bow thrusters.

He said there was an obligation to protect the assets of owner Peel Ports and his department was close to a deal. But until that happens, it would be wrong to estimate how much the additional cost would be – although he said it would be “substantial”.

Mr Baker said the contractor was working until the completion date in early March 2022 – a year later than expected – but admitted that even that date could change.

He said: ‘I’m not going to apologize for the fact that it lasts longer and will cost more because the impact of the coronavirus is significant.

“ I also explained that there was an important element of the project related to the protection of the owner’s asset that we have not yet come to an agreement on. This was a known unknown at the time of signing the contractual documentation ”.

John Quaye, chairman of Manx Independent Carriers, stressed that the majority of crossings to and from Liverpool will use the Mannanan fast craft, the Ben-my-Chree or the new Manxman vessel providing weekend crossings to Merseyside in winter. only.

He told the Manx Independent: ‘What a shame that we are spending all this money on a terminal that has limited cargo capacity and will only be used for a small time of the year. ”

Mr Baker told the MHKs that progress was being made “day by day, week by week”, but that there was “still a lot of work to be done”.

Most of the land reclamation work has been completed, piles have been driven for the main terminal buildings, and the access road is complete.

The costs of the project have already skyrocketed and are currently budgeted at £ 38million. Mr Baker said if necessary, his department would return to the Tynwald for an additional funding vote.

But he insisted that a figure of £ 53.1million for the ferry terminal project published in a written response to a recent question from the Tynwald was ‘completely wrong’ and ‘pure error’ ‘.

In 2015, the Steam Packet said Peel Ports would invest £ 15million in a replacement facility for the aging Pier Head terminal – but would require a long-term financial commitment from the ferry operator. It would have been free for the public purse.

But then the government got involved and the manx taxpayer now pays the full bill.

A site has been purchased at Princes Half-Tide Dock to accommodate the construction of a new Isle of Man ferry terminal.

A 2016 report to the Tynwald estimated the total cost to be in the order of £ 25million. In the 2018 budget the cost was estimated at £ 30.5million, but the latest pink pound puts the total cost at just over £ 38million.

The cost impact of Covid has been estimated at £ 5million, but “we are far from done and that figure will increase dramatically,” the minister told the Keys.

He said it was “too early to be definitive” on the costs of scour protection of the wharf walls.

While the fast craft doesn’t have bow thrusters, the Ben-my-Chree does and the new Manxman ship will have a lot more power, he said.

Mr Baker added: ‘The degree of resilience required was increased by the choice of Manxman by Steam Packet Company, which has a much greater level of horizontal water displacement, which therefore injects more pressure into the wall. of the quay.

“This cost cannot therefore be clarified until we have agreed on the solution. If necessary, of course, whoever does the DoI minister may in due course have to revert to the Tynwald additional vote.

The cost of the other problems was expected but estimated too low. The area was bombed during WWII and some of the unexploded bombs obstructed essential work and had to be dealt with.

The site contained a great deal of archaeological interest, some of which took a long time to excavate, resulting in delays that exceeded estimates.

These delays cost around £ 8,000 a day, or 5% of the value of the program, but ‘we won’t know until the final accounts are calculated’, the minister said. He said he strongly supported the program. “It’s always the right thing to do,” he said.

Mr Baker said it was possible for things to improve and savings to be found, but also not to improve and savings to be found.

“I will do absolutely what I can to control costs and expedite delivery, but I cannot promise that we have yet met all the challenges this program will bring,” he said.

Daphne Caine (Garff) asked how the delays will impact services to Liverpool and whether the Pier Head terminal will continue in the meantime.

Mr Baker said it was up to Steam Packet to negotiate with its owner, but he understood that there was “ no impediment to the continued use of this particular piece of equipment. ”

The Steam Packet said it now plans to use the new sleeper from spring 2023 for the start of rapid manufacturing services.

In the meantime, he has secured the use of the Pier Head wharf until the end of 2022. The ports of Peel are doing work, paid for by the Steam Packet, to allow it to be used throughout the gear season. fast next year.

Liverpool City Council said it is currently considering deadlines for its Pier Head cruise terminal project, given Covid’s impact on the cruise industry.

A spokesperson said: ‘So it is difficult to be specific on when work will start until a review of the impact of the coronavirus on the cruise industry and the cruise ship industry. hotel business is completed. ”

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