MV Balmoral -  approaching Penarth Pier - a rare sight so far this summer.

MV Balmoral – approaching Penarth Pier – a rare sight so far this summer.

The MV Balmoral Trust  the organisation which operates the excursion ship MV Balmoral has made a presentation to Penarth Town Council’s Leisure Committee to update councillors on its operations.

Dave Bassett - Trustee of MV Balmoral Trust

Dave Bassett – Trustee of MV Balmoral Trust

Dave Bassett  a trustee of MV Balmoral said the organisation had last met the council in October 2014 and said that since then  “many positive milestones” had been achieved. Membership of the charity had now been opened to everyone. He said “This is not our ship, this is your ship – the people’s cruise liner, everyone’s ship”

He said the Coastal Communities Fund had awarded £344,000 to the charity with a view to increasing employment and boosting visitors to coastal resorts . All the trustees and directors worked on a purely voluntary basis except for Balmoral herself which is professionally manned and employs 18 .

In 2015 some 30,000 passenger journeys had been made delivering passengers to coastal communities with many favourable comments on how happy the ship is and how welcoming the crew – Mr Bassett said .

In terms of weather however, 2015 had been a “completely rubbish year” – with 25% of Balmoral’s sailings were cancelled because of the weather. Balmoral -Mr Bassett said – can only sail in “clear settled weather” and the office has to notify all passengers of cancellations which is a “hugely onerous task for all concerned”

Balmoral will next be sailing from Penarth on July 29th to Wachet in Somerset and the last sailing in the Bristol Channel this year will be on October 2nd.

MV Balmoral approaching Penarth Pier in brilliant sunshine at the start of her 2016 season

MV Balmoral approaching Penarth Pier in brilliant sunshine at the start of her 2016 season

Andrew Jardine Director of  the ship’s operating company White Funnel Ltd said  there would be 27 sailings from Penarth Pier during the remainder of the year until October .  Amongst  the passengers were a number who were coming on day trips to Penarth for excursions to locations like the Brecon Mountain Railway and others who were coming to explore Penarth and the wider area

The cruise schedule from Penarth, he said,  included trips to Clevedon, Bristol,  the rivers Avon Severn  Wye and Usk , around the Holm Islands, Nash Point, Porthcawl , Minehead, Watchet, Ilfracombe,  Lundy Island and even Padstow in Cornwall.

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell )  asked whether there was any data available as to where passengers came from; did they come from the UK or abroad?  He asked whether Balmoral tied in with any major travel agencies and whether there was any tie in with cruise liners now docking in Cardiff. Cllr Wilson also wondered if there was data on what people spent their money on.

Andrew Jardine of  White Funnel said the bulk of the passengers were from the UK but the organisation was trying to find foreign travel companies and in London had recently met the largest travel agents from Brazil who brought 10,000 customers to London every year. He also said a “positive tie in with cruise liners” was being looked at .

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) opposed the Penarth Tyres application

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) asked whether the Trust went to “more landlocked areas of the UK” to search for business . It would be a nice destination for people to come to Penarth by coach and then take a cruise from Penarth.  Cllr Roberts also mentioned the forthcoming Volvo 2017 yacht race which would be arriving in Cardiff  at the end of next May . The event would be held over two weeks and would involve massive numbers of visitors – and was another opportunity for Balmoral 

Dave Bassett said that the Balmoral Trust needed to grasp every opportunity it had, and agreed it was important to bring people “from the hinterland” into ports like Clevedon and Penarth.

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) noted there was a two month gap in Balmoral’s sailings from Penarth from May 23rd to July 29th – and unfortunately that lost the impact of Penarth’s Summer Festival from June 7th to 17th when “many thousands of people come to Penarth”. It would be nice if a timetable could be arranged to incoporate a visit by Balmoral during the Summer Festival – he said .

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) noted that the dates of the Summer Festival were selected to conform with the high-tides .  Dave Bassett said – “in mitigation” – that Balmoral would be having a stand on the Esplanade at this year’s Summer Festival .

IMG_3444Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell) said he understood Balmoral carried in excess of 20,000 passengers a year  and asked how many of those originated from destinations in or near Penarth? Dave Bassett said the figures were available and the origins of passengers journeys could be checked  . He said that Penarth “used to be the largest loading pier  ” of any of the ship’s destinations

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth ward ) said that Balmoral had been linked with Penarth for very many years and, for some residents, presented the only occasions on which they could afford to go on a ship.

Cllr Roberts  suggested that the Penarth Town Council website should be linked to the Balmoral website  and Cllr Ernest asked whether timetables were now available on the pier.

Dave Bassett said the sweet shop [which occupies the former premises of the Penarth Tourist Information Centre] did stock timetables for free distribution. He also asked whether the council could send the Trust a letter of support to assist it with new applications it was making for grants from the Big Lottery Fund and the Coastal Communities Fund

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said the Balmoral was “an asset to the town “ and whilst the council could not give much in terms of a donation because of budgetary constraints, he saw no reason why the council should not offer a letter of support .

Dave Bassett said the donation from Penarth Council had been a “gesture of support” which had actually encouraged a lot of other people give money to the Balmoral Trust.    




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  1. whatsoccurin says:

    A great asset to the local area, but the need for clear settled weather must make it difficult for local tourists to commit themselves to a day out which may or may not happen. The weather does seem to be moving to a more changeable phase and we do not appear to get the regular sunny summer days that we used to-25% cancellations seem a very high number.

  2. I do not remember sailings in the quite recent past being cancelled if the weather was more than “settled”. I think the current restrictions have come about as a result of the “Health & Safety” culture which has gripped the UK in the last 15 years or so. However, I do not see the English Channel ferries cancelling when the weather is poor, nor the Irish Ferries, so perhaps the Goodship “Balmoral” is being unfairly penalised by Higher Authority who set the regulations ?

    • whatsoccurin says:

      I think you have a good point Councillor-life in apartment blocks has also changed dramatically in the last few years-when residents refurbish their flats minor “maintenance” tasks have become major projects because a “certificate” is needed for this or a gas system which has worked well for years is suddenly deemed “unsafe”-the result is that residents, some infirm, many at home in the day have their lives disrupted by constant drilling and disruption.

      • Graham Breller says:

        So, who says brain surgeons need to be qualified? Surely butchers deal with this sort of thing? What’s wrong with trepanning, or lobotomies performed on the high street? Why not get a handyman (or handywoman) to tune your gas boiler at half the price? While they’re at it, they could neuter the cat and rewire the house (ignoring that pesky meter), and build a two-room extension using pallets dumped in the lane.
        Don’t listen to economists either. What do they know about the economy? Call themselves experts? I could do that with my hands blindfolded and my eyes behind my back.

    • Tim Hughes says:

      I think there are two issues affecting the Balmoral that does not apply to the cross channel ferries. The first is that the tide in Penarth is many times bigger than the cross channel ferries experience and this results in much larger currents. The other issue is that the Balmoral docks at many different ports and it would be very expensive to provide the proper permanent infrastructure at all these different sites, cross channel ferries rarely change their docking ports.

  3. Andrew Davies says:

    When I was assistant, and then Piermaster following Tom Fearnley’s retirement over 30 years ago, I used to get soaked on a regular basis. (I hasten to point out that I am teetotal these days). However, I’ll always remember the many occasions mooring both the Balmoral and the Waverley in a downpour, or on drizzly days, and occasionally, in gale force blasts. Only very few sailings were cancelled, but working in such adverse conditions could be very hazardous, and might not be taken so lightly now.

  4. Chris says:

    I’m all for having the visits from MV Balmoral, however most passengers depart from Penarth leaving no parking for day trippers to Penarth, whilst the ship cruises off to other town, who benefit from the visitors. Penarth Council can’t you find a solution to this problem?

    In addition, whilst Penarth Council supports the Balmoral, very few visitors disembark in Penarth. Why is that?

  5. AK says:

    The Balmoral is a vintage pleasure cruiser, not a cross channel ferry. She relies on voluntary contribution to keep here afloat, so the charity probably doesn’t want to bash a hole in the topsides against Penarth Pier in a gale.

    Parking in Penarth.
    What is needed is a bus going from Cogan Leisure Centre (big car park), via the Barrage (big car park), via the town centre to the seafront and cliff top (big car park) and back to Cogan via the town centre. There could be a couple of routes going further afield – but people might actually be required to walk to a bus stop.

    • whatsoccurin says:

      Agree with your comments about parking-a lovely summer drive is to North Devon-the coastal towns and villages are beautiful and they accept motorists do have to make concessions and park away from the Promenades-it seems to be agreed that to pander to the motorist and build a multi-storey on the sea front would ruin the beauty of the town-who in their right minds would even consider that!!

  6. AK – you make a fair point about bus services across Penarth. However, the route you suggest is identical to that heavlly sponsored by the Town Council for several years (£8K), and failed to pick up more than a handful of passengers over the running period of some 2-3 months in mid-Summer. We now have the 91 Service at weekends, the 99B also at weekends, as well as the 88 and 89B on weekdays. I am not sure how many more buses running almost empty could be afforded, unless residents and visitors support every one of them into a profit situation.

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