Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey
CHAIR’S AGM REPORT 2019
Good evening again and welcome – thanks for attending our AGM.
Starting with the Mersey Ferries Operations, the year has provided some tangible reasons for optimism. Following reports that funding was being found for a new ferry vessel, we made enquiries of Merseytravel and were invited to a seminar on 6th August 2018 when a concept design of a ferry was presented to us for comment. We have subsequently learnt that a number of ship-builders are showing interest, and that a tender process should allow a chosen scheme to be selected later this year aimed at delivering the vessel about 2021. Efforts are being made to secure additional funding to build a second ferry at a discount. Diesel electric propulsion through azimuth pods has been selected, and the ferry will have a “traditional” appearance.
With our aging fleet, Mersey Ferries has decided to “bite the bullet” and make a move to safeguard the future service, a process which we of course heartily endorse.
Nevertheless, a note of caution intrudes in that the terminals at Seacombe and Woodside (the latter now well aged into its thirties) will continue to need investment. More subtle changes require monitoring including the possible charging for car-parking at Seacombe (unlike free railway parking at Bidston and Birkenhead North for example). Also, the first ferry on Winter Saturdays will be at 10.00am and on Sundays 11.00am.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Royal Daffodil has been sold to a firm involved in the tourist industry for mooring in Canning Dock, near Albert Dock, as a “leisure attraction”. Its role is unclear, but footfall in the vicinity is considerable and we hope the venture will be commercially successful. We know that Merseytravel is anxious to avoid a repetition of the slow demise of the 1951 Royal Iris which rotted away in the Thames, so although we are sad to lose Royal Daffodil’s ferry status, we hope she can have a new lease of life here on Merseyside. The future of the current Royal Iris of the Mersey and the Snowdrop remains unknown.
The river service in the past year has suffered from some breakdowns, but not on the same scale as in recent years, we have been glad to observe. The Mersey Ferries Events Manager has continued this year to develop evening activities, and hopefully further initiatives to expand passenger traffic will follow.
Financially, Friends of the Ferries continues in a sound position at the end of the year, with a surplus again of around £3000. Malcolm McRonald, our founder-member Hon. Treasurer, must be thanked once more for his careful work throughout the year managing our affairs. Our Annual Cruise and Christmas Draw brought substantial extra income, and our membership is holding up well with 450 annually paid-up members at the year end.. More details will be reported later in this meeting.
As ever, I am grateful for the efforts of our Committee in running the organisation effectively and efficiently. Joan Roberts, our Hon.Publicity and Marketing Officer with her friend John Timms spend many hours at Fairs promoting Friends. Gordon Ditchfield organises our Dock and River Cruise and the Christmas Draw, as well as being our Membership Secretary, which keeps him constantly busy throughout the year. David Hocker is our Secretary, who helps run our meetings, and Geoff Holmes produces our two Newsletters per annum. Andrew Blizzard, Terry Edgar and Bob Peers complete our active committee. We thank them I know for all their contributions - “Many hands make light work”.
Last August’s Dock and River Cruise, though later in the year than usual, was a successful sell-out, with a fine day and plenty of vessels observed in both the river and dock system. Andy Ball and Stuart Wood gave their fluent commentary and certainly enjoy their day with us. We look forward to seeing them again on Saturday 3rd August. Please buy your tickets tonight – but they are available through Gordon Ditchfield or at each ferry terminal.
Our Website continues to operate satisfactorily, and the Events Section received 1800 “hits” during the year. We can always do with some technical help on this matter, and the Committee will be happy to consider co-opting persons who are able and willing to help our organisation.
Your Committee continues to be vigilant on the future of Mersey Ferries and hopes that the service with its anticipated investment can continue to thrive and expand.
I look forward to seeing you on our Dock and River cruise later this year.
Hon.Chair, Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.