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22.11.06
Crucial investigation on cruise liner project announced

A crucial first step towards investigating the feasibility of dredging of a deeper approach channel to Falmouth Docks in preparation for accommodating larger cruise liners has been announced with tenders being sought for a significant Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The strategic project has been driven by Falmouth Harbour Commissioners and A&P Falmouth Limited and would see many more cruise liners, up to 340 metres long, berthed alongside the docks. It has widespread support and is recognised as having the potential to bring significant economic benefit to Falmouth and Cornwall while promoting sustainable tourism.

Tenders for the wide range of environmental studies required to complete an EIA are being sought through the European Journal, the standard procedure for a major contract of this nature, with an announcement of who has been awarded the contract expected in January 2007.

The South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) and the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will jointly fund the £410,000 project, with the RDA also agreeing to a further funding package of £41,000 towards an additional £117,000 environmental study being carried out by the docks.

Plans for the docks include a new wharf, improvements to the existing reclaimed land and a new permanent cruise terminal, all of which would be dependent on the dredging going ahead.

Falmouth Harbour Commissioner, Captain Mark Sansom, is jubilant that the funding has been forthcoming and that the tenders are now being advertised to carry out the environmental studies: "For many years the Commissioners, together with Falmouth Docks, have been convinced of the potential of bringing larger cruise liners alongside in Falmouth; we both share a commitment and responsibility for the economic well being of the port and believe this project will help secure a sustainable future for the port and local businesses as well as further a field in Cornwall."

Research has confirmed the substantial economic benefit of cruise ships, which will impact on local shops and suppliers and also to the wider economy. Cruise liner operations also have advantages in terms of carbon emissions compared to travel by air or car, with passengers using coaches to tour around Cornwally.

Importantly, research is also making it quite clear that, in order to be competitive and attract cruise liner business, it is essential to offer alongside berthing facilities as tendering operations from vessels at anchor have become increasingly unpopular with cruise liner companies and their customers.

Capt Sansom adds: "The Commissioners are acutely aware of the sensitivity of the environment in this area and have consequently specified a robust Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure the environmental effects of the necessary works are known and fully understood. Any future decisions will be informed by this study."

This approach is reflected by Stephen Bohane, head of operations for the RDA in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, who said: "These environmental studies are a crucial first step to investigating whether the long-term plans to develop Falmouth Docks and harbour will be possible.

"We recognise Falmouth's importance to the regional economy and its potential to attract more and larger vessels from the global cruise market; the outcome of these important environmental studies will inform us about whether those aspirations can be realised."

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "Understanding the impacts on the spectacular environment of the Fal and the proposed expansion of the cruise liner market in Falmouth is critical. Objective One investment into impact studies such as this ensures the essential link between potential economic success and sensitivity to the environment."

The scoping of the EIA was widely consulted prior to the tender being drawn up. Falmouth Harbour Commissioners are committed to continuing that open dialogue and the company appointed through the tender process will be invited to liaise with local environment groups, committees and interested parties as part of their contract.

The studies will investigate the potential environmental impacts of deepening and straightening the navigation channel between the Carrick Roads and Falmouth Harbour to allow larger cruise liners access to the port at all times of the tide.

Mike Reynolds, Port Operations Director at Falmouth, said: "Successful completion of this Environmental Impact Assessment is a vital step for the future of the Port. If we can accommodate the largest cruise ships it will build on our achievements in recent years in attracting the cruise industry to the County and will see significant economic benefits not only to the Port, but throughout Cornwall."

There's strong local support for the project's important environmental study. Roger Bonney, Mayor of Falmouth, Chair of County Planning Committee, Carrick District and Falmouth Town Councillor said: "Falmouth Town Council is fully supportive and delighted to hear the EIA is now going ahead. We understand the great potential of this project and have played an active role in encouraging its advancement."

Carrick District Council Chief Executive John Winskill is also optimistic about the project commenting: "It is the wonderful environment of Falmouth Bay and the Carrick Roads which makes it so attractive for cruise ships in the first place. The importance of the Environmental Impact Assessment in ensuring proper balance in advancing such a sound project whilst being mindful of its environmental impact cannot be underestimated and its outcome will be essential in determining the next steps towards potentially dredging the harbour. Having said that, and subject to the Impact Assessment, the development of the cruise liner terminal will be a crucial step in enhancing a substantial new 'gateway' to Cornwall and its economy."

Tourism experts are pleased to support the project and keen to see the EIA progress. Bob Harrison of the cruise marketing initiative Destination South West said: "This development could have a major impact of the cruise business for the South West of England. If the largest ships in the world can call at Falmouth it will showcase what we have to offer to the lines and their passengers and the whole region will benefit." He added: "I am going to the US next week to promote the region and this is a wonderful first step to talk to the cruise lines about."

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of South West Tourism added: "We welcome the fact the proposition for a cruise terminal is to be properly examined both economically and environmentally. The cruise market is important, especially as the industry is growing rapidly at the moment. We also know that 40% of visitors who enjoy their trip ashore are likely to return for a longer break. Cruises not only offer a short term boast to the local economy but also longer term benefits."

For further information please contact the Deborah Clark of Deborah Clark and Associates Ltd on 01872 276276 or email Deborah@dclark.co.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the EIA of dredging of Falmouth harbour project through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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Editor's notes:

 

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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