Construction of the vessel destined to serve the Cunard division of Carnival Corporation commenced at the Fincantieri yard near Venice recently.
Some time ago Carnival Corporation had indicated that Liverpool was a front-runner to host the naming ceremony in April 2005. The year marking the 165th Anniversary of the founding of the Cunard Steamship Company. However, the Daily Post has revealed that Carnival is reviewing earlier proposals to carry out the naming ceremony in Liverpool.
The Daily Post's editorial reflects a note of disappointed that a Liverpool ceremony is now in doubt. However, perhaps it would be more appropriate if Carnival Corporation took their ship somewhere else to be named in the light of events over the past few years?
To welcome Carnival - Cunard to the Mersey would be disingenuous to the memory of the Cammell Laird shipyard at least as well known in the maritime world as the Cunard shipping line.
Back in 1999 it looked as though a positive relationship would develop between Carnival Corporation, the then recent purchasers of Cunard, and Merseyside. In late 1999 the present CARONIA was renamed with much ceremony and a spectacular firework display at Prince's Landing Stage.
Meanwhile just across the River Mersey at Cammell Laird work was under way to build a mid body module to lengthen the cruise ship COSTA CLASSICA. COSTA CLASSICA being owned by Costa Crociere, yet another division of the Carnival Corporation. There was even talk of a similar lengthening contract for the COSTA ROMANTICA.
However, less than a year after the renaming of CARONIA, Carnival Corporation backed out of the COSTA CLASSICA contract. This happened shortly before the ship was due to arrive at Birkenhead for the newly constructed module to be inserted.
It had been agreed that payment for the lengthening contract would be made on completion. Cammell Laird had borrowed heavily to finance the construction of the module. The project was something, which Cammell Laird hoped would pave the way for similar cruise ship conversion contracts and perhaps even lead to the construction of new passenger ships at the Merseyside yard.
With Carnival walking away from the contract, Cammell Laird was dealt a blow from which the company could not recover. Receivers were appointed in April 2001, with the yard closing completely in the summer.
The sale of the Birkenhead yard to the A&P group followed and almost a year later the former Cammell Laird yard reopened in summer 2002. No longer does the proud lettering "Cammell Laird, Shipbuilders, Engineers and Repairers" greet ships arriving on the Mersey as it had done generations. In December 2002 it was eventually replaced by the much less grand A&P Birkenhead - Premier Ship Repair"
The A&P operation is certainly a shadow of that provided by Cammell Laird Plc, employing significantly fewer staff.
The actions of Carnival Corporation consigned one of the greatest names in British shipbuilding and repair to the dustbin of history.
Many Merseyside people suffered as a direct result of Carnival's actions through lost jobs and /or investments.
Rather than bemoaning the fact that QUEEN VICTORIA may not be named on Merseyside perhaps we should be celebrating ?
Some might say that what has gone should be forgotten and one should look forward to the future, but the collapse of Cammell Laird deprived Merseyside of a great maritime name which was probably just as well known as Cunard.
Additionally the sensitivities of local people who may have suffered financially as a result of the Cammell Laird collapse should also be taken into consideration.