Portsmouth? It’s too successful for our cruise ship

Leone Hill

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A CRUISE company has pulled out of a deal to stop off in Portsmouth – because the city’s port is too successful.

French firm Comapgnie du Ponant, whose cruise ship the MV Le Diamant was scheduled to use the international ferry port for the first time this year, has confirmed it has pulled out of its agreement.

The company’s UK spokeswoman, Jill Faulds, told The News: ‘Too many large ships use the port. Le Diamant is small and better suited to a port used by less heavy shipping. We will, instead, operate from Dartmouth, a smaller, picturesque port, not accessible to larger ships.’

MV Le Diamant, which has a capacity of just 226 passengers and 120 crew, was to sail from Portsmouth seven times this year.

The deal, agreed in August last year, would have seen her travel from Portsmouth on five seven-night voyages and two 12-night trips, all in July and August.

It was set to ‘island hop’ in the Channel, Irish Sea and North Sea.

No contract was signed, as the ship was to book in advance of each mooring.

It means the port will lose up to £22,000 in mooring fees and passenger dues.

It also means the total number of cruises from Portsmouth will be cut from 40 to 33 this year.

The company had not told the port when The News contacted ferry port manager Phil Gadd.

He said: ‘We’re disappointed. We’d have hoped they’d have talked to us. Companies usually come to us because of our good facilities, rather than leave because of them. We’re becoming larger and I’m sorry our superiority to Dartmouth has put them off. We’re sorry to lose them.’

The port has focused attention on cruise companies in recent years, and believes its new terminal – to be finished by the end of the month – can continue to attract ships to the city.

Port authority board member Portsmouth City Councillor Donna Jones said: ‘We’re looking to move into the cruise market, so it’s disappointing. But we’re a good starting point and destination.’

Portsmouth City Council’s leader for economic regeneration, Cllr Mike Hancock, added: ‘This must be for some other reason. Why would a company leave because it can see other companies are pleased to use the port? I will try to talk to them.

‘It’s a strange reason they have given.’