Glasgow & West Scotland

Coronavirus: Council to discuss Clyde cruise ships docking concerns

Greenock Ocean Terminal via geograph Image copyright Thomas Nugent

Councillors in Inverclyde are to discuss their concerns over the potential docking of cruise ships on the Clyde during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The area's harbour authority, Peel Ports, has received requests to lay-up cruise ships with skeleton staff at Greenock and other nearby locations.

Inverclyde Council is opposed to the move - but says it has no powers to stop it happening.

Peel Ports said there was a "strict, well-established protocol" in place.

Inverclyde has been the worst-hit council area in Scotland for deaths involving coronavirus.

Peel Ports told the council last month that it had received a number of requests from cruise companies who wanted to berth their ships on the Clyde.

Operators are laying up their vessels, with just crew members on board, until travel restrictions are lifted.

Earlier this month Inverclyde Council voiced its opposition because of the pressures on the health service.

The issue will be discussed again at a council meeting on Tuesday.

The local authority believes there are alternative locations where the port infrastructure and access to health services "have more resilience".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cruise ships have docked at Greenock for many years

Council leader Stephen McCabe urged the operator to reconsider the proposal "as a matter of urgency".

He said Inverclyde had shown that "we are there for people in a crisis" and that Greenock "will always be a port of safe harbour".

But he added that council could not support Peel Ports' proposal as it "wouldn't be appropriate" to place a "significant" number of people in one location, potentially putting strain on health services.

Mr McCabe said: "We do not want to put anyone, including the crew of the cruise ships, into any harm and it is crucially important that nothing is done that interferes with the stay at home messages.

"We want many more people to visit and discover the amazing things we have in Inverclyde, but our message is not right now."

'Economic challenges'

Mark Whitworth, chief executive officer for Peel Ports Group, wrote to Inverclyde Council saying cruise ships seeking harbour would be similar to cargo ships due to their skeleton crews.

He said there was a "strict, well-established protocol" in place enabling local port health teams to make assessments - including scenarios with cases of Covid-19.

Mr Whitworth continued: "Whilst it is of a primary importance to consider the health emergency, we also need to recognise that in the weeks ahead, once we have beaten the virus and looked after our people, our thoughts will need to focus on the economic challenges.

"It has not gone unnoticed within the cruise industry that Inverclyde have been unwilling to support the sector when it needed practical help and at a time when other ports in Scotland and around the wider UK and Ireland coastline have been more accommodating.

"Looking after all our people and visitors alike will remain our primary importance."

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