Welcome everybody. Thank you for attending our AGM! Our paid-up Membership remains significant - something under 500 at this time - a slight fall from last year. However, we are taking further measures to ensure that members are clearly reminded when their subscriptions expire as there is some evidence that forgetfulness may play a part in non-renewals. Do please encourage your friends and colleagues to join. We need this strength to argue our case with Merseytravel and Mersey Ferries!
Regarding Mersey Ferry Operations, the last year saw the loss of a ferry vessel for about six months, following the grounding of the Royal Iris in July 2016. This meant an immediate stop to Manchester Ship Canal cruises, and the cancellation of ferry services across the river when ever the sole remaining vessel Snowdrop suffered any mechanical problems. Revenues were reduced, and, more importantly, passenger confidence was lost, especially amongst commuters. Particularly galling was the more recent loss of service from time to time during the rail-tunnel closures, still ongoing, when the repaired Royal Iiris suffered problems while the Snowdrop was having its annual survey – just at the time when new and old passengers might hopefully be encouraged to return to use the service.
These consequences stem, of course, from Mersey Ferries’ insistence that the Royal Daffodil remains in “warm lay-up” as “it is not required”. We argue it is needed, and we have been proved correct! Our view is that no initiatives are being taken to utilize the vessel on charter work in our booming tourist and conference market, and that if efforts were made the funds now spent on laying up the vessel could be more positively employed, which would also provide more flexible back-up when mechanical issues arose.
(The incident to the Royal Iris is being examined by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The report is out for consultation with interested parties, and it will be interesting to learn the reasons for the ingress of water and any culpability which can be apportioned. The vessel’s return to service was further extensively delayed when it was later found on trials that significant undiagnosed damage to the transmission system had been incurred).
On a more positive note, Mersey Ferries has stated that they do intend to build a new ferry vessel, and indeed some initial and preliminary work has been started regarding the design. We trust an appropriate vessel emerges (there have been unworkable vessels introduced in previous generations on the Mersey), and that the monies will be forthcoming to build it from the new Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
The issue of retaining two Wirral terminals appears to have gone away for now, but we need to be aware of ongoing refurbishment costs for the existing structures, especially at Woodside.
Meanwhile, we have a new potential competitor in the guise of the splendidly restored Daniel Adamson steam tug. We also have seen reference to a group which wishes to acquire the Royal Daffodil as static heritage vessel for display and possible entertainment uses. Yet again, we need to remain alert.
Financially, Friends have had another successful year with a satisfactory surplus for the year of over £2,800. As usual, our Dock and River Cruise and Christmas Draw were responsible for much of this. We thank Malcolm, our Hon. Treasurer, for his meticulous work in managing our accounts and he will give more details later in his report.
Our Hon.Publicity and Marketing Officer, Joan Roberts, is in charge of Sales. She has attended quite a number of events and fairs during the year, advertising our Society on both sides of the water. Greatly helped by John Timms, she has generated funds for the Friends through sales, membership subscriptions, and her famous picture raffles. Our grateful thanks to both for the hours spent preparing and running the stalls, and for the significant public relations value which accrues.
Hon.Membership Secretary Gordon Ditchfield services our Subscriptions, and is also responsible for organising the ever-successful Christmas Draw, and making the Dock and River Cruise arrangements. Many thanks to him for carrying out these wide-ranging tasks. I’d also like to thank our Newsletter Editor, Geoff Holmes and our Hon.Secretary David Hocker for the duties they fulfil, and the other members of the Committee - Bob Peers, Terry Edgar and Andrew Blizzard - who have contributed to the smooth running of Friends’ activities. The Committee is able to consider co-opting to the Committee persons who are able and willing to assist our organization.
Our Dock and River Cruise on 25th June last year again had favourable weather, and numerous ships were observed on the river and in the docks.
Indeed, there were too many vessels moving in the docks to allow us to access the Royal Seaforth Terminal, for the first time. The Committee will review the situation after the Cruise this May, and we might need to alter the arrangements we have followed since 1986. Our commentators Andy Ball and Stuart Wood once again enjoyed their day, and will be back this 27th May. Get your tickets this evening – and help sell some to your friends and colleagues! Mersey Ferries continues to be helpful in selling the tickets at all three terminals, and advertising our Cruise on their web-site. Less helpful are Peel Ports, with whom negotiations are taking place regarding the imposition of pilotage charges on our Cruise within the Dock system.
Our Website www.friendsoftheferries.org.uk has been refreshed and now contains some back-dated correspondence and reports to demonstrate our role in protecting the Mersey Ferries. We still need the help of someone who can update the web, but meanwhile we have this undertaken by our excellent professionals at “Designated” based at Vale House, Vale Park.
Your Committee will continue to monitor Mersey Ferries activities on your behalf, and it will be interesting to see how policies emerge now that Merseytravel and Mersey Ferries form part of the Liverpool City Region organization under Mayor Steve Rotheram, who is keen to improve transport facilities.
I look forward to seeing you all on our Dock and River Cruise on 27th May.
Hon. Chairman Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.
8th May 2017.
As a postscript, and on a sad note, I wish to tell you of the passing of Alison Carter who, with her husband Craig Carter, warmly welcomed our Committee to their home for meetings over many years.