Chairman's AGM Report 2015

Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey

Welcome everybody.  Thank you for attending our 38th AGM!  Our Membership is maintained at about 500 paid-up members.  We need this strength to argue our case with Merseytravel and Mersey Ferries!

With regard to Policy matters, we continue to have most cordial relations with Cllr. Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel, and Gary Evans, Head of Consumer Delivery, which incorporates being the Chief Officer in charge of Mersey Ferries. Most recently we met them on 4th March as described in my report published in our April Newsletter.  There have clearly been significant organisational changes within Mersey Ferries aimed at efficiencies in the light of austerity measures imposed by the Government.  There is also the need to bear in mind that not all the contributing authorities within the new Liverpool City Region benefit to the same extent from Mersey Ferries, although all have remained sympathetic to the iconic image of Merseyside which has been created by the Ferries. (The national media publicity given the “dazzle painting of the Snowdrop is testimony to this).

Nevertheless, there seems to be an inertia or trepidation within the organisation to take some initiatives.  We have argued that charter work for the Royal Daffodil, perhaps focussed on the new Liverpool Conference market, could well bring in the same income as is now expended on the laying-up of the vessel - the equivalent of 180 hours of hire at £1000 per hour. Such an interim decision would not interfere with the 25 year strategy report which is being currently compiled by consultants, a report which is appropriate and will provide much food for thought as the vessels and Wirral stages continue to age.  Hopefully, the two vessels in service will not break down between scheduled maintenance periods (causing chaos), but the limitations of having only two vessels on the river will be apparent at the forthcoming “Cunarder Extravaganza” around 25th May.  We are pleased that our suggestion to keep the same “River Explorer” route throughout the year, incorporating Lairds and the Tranmere Oil Terminal, and providing the opportunity for catch up time when running late, has been adopted by Mersey Ferries.

Financially, Friends have had a successful year with a surplus for the year of nearly £1700.  Our Dock and River Cruise and Christmas Draw were responsible for much of this.  Our thanks to Malcolm, our Hon. Treasurer, for his work in managing this - he has more details later .

Our Hon.Publicity and Marketing Officer, Joan Roberts, is in charge of Sales.  Once again she has attended numerous events and fairs during the year advertising our Society in the wider world.  Greatly helped by John Timms, she has generated a sales turnover for the Friends of over £600 this year. Our thanks to both for the considerable time spent organising and running the stalls.

Hon.Membership Secretary Gordon Ditchfield has not only brought in our Subscriptions, but is also responsible for organising the Christmas Draw and the Dock and River Cruise arrangements.  Many thanks to him for carrying out these duties.  I’d also like to thank our Newsletter Editor, Geoff Holmes and our Hon.Secretary David Hocker, and all the other members of the Committee - Bob Peers, Terry Edgar and Andrew Blizzard -, who have contributed to the smooth running of Friends’ activities.  We greatly miss the positive contributions of the late John Wealthy, whom we remembered earlier this evening.  The Committee is able to consider co-opting persons prepared to join the Committee as a replacement.

Our Dock and River Cruise at the end of May last year was blessed with fine weather, and numerous ships were observed on the river and in the docks. Our new commentators Andy Ball and Stuart Wood enjoyed the day and will be back this year.  The very successful day was concluded by cruising alongside the Cunarder Queen Victoria as she departed the Pier Head.  Please help sell tickets for this year’s cruise!

Our Website continues to cause us problems.  Our external webmaster, well recommended, has cut all contact with us, and also with the people and organisation which had put his name forward.  There is no explanation so far, and the web-site has now been deleted from the web as the subscription has lapsed at our instigation.  We urgently need someone with the time and skills to resurrect the site, and would welcome offers or recommendations immediately.  The situation is currently limiting the advertising of our Cruise.

With further swingeing cuts threatened in the parts of the public sector not ring-fenced, and the unknown strategy proposals anticipated later this year, there could be some dark clouds hanging over the Mersey Ferries.  Your Committee will endeavour as always to protect the service and to encourage its promotion and expansion.

I look forward to seeing you all on our Cruise on 20th June.

Andrew Hodgson,
Hon. Chairman Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.
18th May 2015.