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Belfast Harbour has been named the best port of call in the UK and Ireland for cruise ships. The accolade was awarded by a global panel of cruise experts as part of the 2019 Cruise Critic Editors’ Pick Awards.

It follows a record-breaking 2019 cruise season for the city with 146 cruise calls and 280,000 visitors. The judges were particularly impressed by a £500,000 investment by Belfast Harbour and Tourism NI in the island’s first dedicated cruise terminal which was officially opened in July.

The welcome facility, which includes a Visitor Information Centre managed by Visit Belfast, also boasts new facilities for coaches and taxis, and an easily accessible deep-water berth to accommodate larger cruise ships. The judges also praised the location of the terminal for providing “easy access to the city’s world-class attractions, such as Titanic Belfast in the city's famous Titanic Quarter”.

Joe O’Neill, Belfast Harbour’s CEO, said: “With our partners Visit Belfast we’ve worked hard to market Belfast Harbour and Northern Ireland under the ‘Cruise Belfast’ initiative as one of the best cruise destinations in Western Europe. We’ve also invested in a new terminal with the support of Tourism NI to encourage further growth in this strategically important sector. Considering the quality of other destinations in the UK and Ireland, we’re delighted to win the award”.

If you had left Belfast twenty years ago (as many did) you would remember the city as having turned its back on the River Lagan. Not so today. The waterfront has developed beyond imagination with of course, the magnificent Titanic Belfast, the Marina and many office and apartment blocks, river cruises and maritime festivals. Belfast Harbour is Northern Ireland’s leading gateway and key economic hub for trade and tourism, handling more than 70% of the region’s seaborne imports and exports. The 2,000-acre Harbour Estate hosts more than five million annual visits, including 1.5 million ferry and cruise ship passengers. It’s home to a vibrant mix of 760 businesses working across multiple sectors, to include marine logistics and heavy engineering, commercial and residential real estate, retail, financial and IT services, tourism and leisure, media and creative industries.

 

And helping feed the economy is the successful cruise tourism sector which encourages new tourist and leisure projects, and further enhances Belfast’s reputation as a leading destination, including within the cruise market.

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast, added: In the 20 years since Visit Belfast was established, we have worked with Belfast Harbour to attract cruise visitors to the city and region, and the result has been an enormous increase in the number of visitors and ships coming to the city. In total, Cruise Belfast has brought 784 ships to the city since 1999, and in the last five years alone, cruise visitor numbers have increased by 135%.

John McGrillen, Tourism NI Chief Executive, commented: “This is a great achievement for Belfast’s international visitor reputation and is a result of major investment in the cruise tourism market which saw the opening of our first dedicated cruise terminal in July. The new terminal can accommodate bigger cruise ships bringing visitors from key markets across Europe and ensure that once they are here, they are easily able to access all of our world-famous attractions and hospitality.

The awards are based on Cruise Critic editors’ impartial cruise expertise which draws upon first-hand experiences and industry knowledge. Adam Coulter, UK Managing Editor, Cruise Critic said: “The desire for more experiential holidays, especially amongst younger travellers is certainly helping to boost the UK cruise sector. There is more choice than ever before in ocean, river and expedition cruises as a result of an array of exciting new ships launched this year and next. Whether you are cruising as a multi-generational family, a couple or solo, there really is a cruise for everyone.”

In addition to its record-breaking cruise season, Belfast Harbour also welcomed several firsts during 2019. These included the visits of ‘Disney Magic’ and SAGA’s first ever new build vessel, the ‘Spirit of Discovery’. The port also welcomed 6,500 visitors and crew onboard the ‘MSC Meraviglia’, the largest ship by passenger capacity to ever visit Belfast. The Harbour has also invested in new facilities to market Belfast as a cruise embarkation port. Cruise & Maritime has already scheduled departures from Belfast for next summer including Norwegian Fjord and British Isles itineraries.

Published in Cruise Liners

Another project in addition to the Bangor Queen’s Parade development on the County Down coast mentioned recently in Afloat, should see the enhancement of a two-mile stretch of the coast from the west of the Bangor Harbour all the way through to the eastern end of Ballyholme Bay writes Betty Armstrong.

Ards and North Down Council has appointed AECOM as consultant for this £60M Bangor Waterfront project to help establish Bangor as a thriving town and prime visitor attraction in Northern Ireland.

The project includes new public realm along the 2.2 mile stretch and new greenways and coastal paths that will better link people to both the town and the sea. Pickie Park, which is already immensely popular with residents and visitors alike, will be enhanced to become a family visitor attraction of national significance and compliment the re-imagining of Ballyholme beach that is also part of the project.

The potential for other innovative features that support the town’s aspiration to revive itself as an attractive, accessible, creative and diverse seaside town will be explored as part of the early work AECOM will undertake.

Bangor SeafrontBangor Seafront

The AECOM team offers extensive visioning, design, environmental and economic expertise. AECOM was the master planner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and has delivered a range of waterfront projects, including Liverpool, Blackpool and in Northern Ireland,the award-winning Newcastle public realm. AECOM has also worked on several projects in Bangor, such as the recent town centre public realm improvements. The AECOM-led team for the Bangor Waterfront project also includes Hemingway Design, Savills and Jettora.

Patrick Clarke, Director – UK & Ireland Masterplanning Lead, AECOM, said: “Building on the ambitious waterfront plan for Bangor, our team brings a breadth of multidisciplinary expertise to further develop this vision, creating a masterplan that will secure long-term tourism and economic benefits for the town and a business case to support future investment in Bangor” Wayne Hemingway, Hemingway Design, added: “We think that Bangor is a town with so many of the ingredients needed to really attract more visitors and be an even more lovely place to live and work, so we’re excited to be a part of this project”.

The Bangor Waterfront Project is one of several exciting tourism-led regeneration schemes due to receive funding from the Belfast Region City Deal. Approximately £40M will be secured via this bespoke package of funding from Westminster, with the remaining investment coming from both the Council and the private sector.

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Bill Keery, commented: “The appointment of AECOM, and its wider team, is a critical step forward in our plans to regenerate Bangor. They bring a wide range of experience, including the delivery of international coastal regeneration projects, to the table and I have no doubt will challenge and refine our thinking as we progress this very exciting project.”

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Since Victorian times until about thirty years ago, Queens Parade in Bangor was a thriving seaside thoroughfare with shops, hotels, a cinema, and ice cream vendors all colourfully set in a row, attracting hundreds to that part of the town writes Betty Armstrong.

Sadly, most of the buildings have gone, many are derelict and only artistic type ‘pods’ on waste ground relieve the boredom. In 1989 on the seaward side, the Council built the marina replacing the open bay and the little beach at the bottom of Main Street with a 500-berth haven and associated facilities, a Coastguard station and beside it a boatyard.

But the siting of two huge retail complexes on the outskirts of the town has ruined business in the town centre. Now the Ards and North Down Council, after many proposed and discarded redevelopment plans, has appointed Bangor Marine as the developer to take forward a major £50m regeneration project of Queen’s Parade.

Bangor Marine PresentationAn artist's impression of views from the proposed apartments out over Bangor Marina
The proposed scheme is made up of; Marine Gardens Public Realm combining external events space, cafes, sheltered promenade and kiosks, beach, seafront lawns, children’s play area and water feature; a 70/80 bed hotel; a destination/cinema building; residential units; commercial/retail/restaurant space; office Space; a play zone; refurbishment of existing commercial properties; 200 space car park; and marketplace and courtyard squares.

Making the announcement the Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg said: “This development and the £50m investment in Bangor will generate new jobs, new shops, new offices, new homes and make this area Bangor a place to see and visit. It will help to support a number of areas that we know are important to the vitality of our town centres, especially employment and tourism”.

The then Mayor Councillor Richard Smart said “The regeneration of Queen’s Parade is critical to the future of Bangor and to maximising the economic growth potential of the wider borough of Ards and North Down. With the appointment of Bangor Marine – a consortium made up of a number of leading companies including the Karl Group and Farrans – we are taking a very significant and exciting step forward”.

Aran Blackbourne, Managing Director of the Karl Group commented “The Bangor Marine team are delighted to have signed the Development Agreement to deliver this prestigious and life changing development for the people of Bangor and beyond”.

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Belfast used to turn its back on the River Lagan. Not anymore writes Betty Armstrong. Within the city much development, both commercial and urban, has taken place around the river – a weir, Belfast Harbour Marina, riverside walks, a new footbridge, many cultural events and maritime gatherings and farther upstream, improved towpaths, rowing, kayaking and angling. All this has resulted in a huge increase in the number of people using the waterway and consequently, an increase in incidents.

Lagan Search and Rescue is an acute water rescue and independent lifeboat charity serving the city. It is a voluntary emergency service set up in 2011 responding to incidents in and around the river 24/7, under the direction and control of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

A dedicated and highly trained group of volunteers make up the Lifeboat crew, Quayside Responders, Rescue swimmers and Flood Response unit. Last year members put in over 11000 hours on behalf of the Charity.

So if you’re over 18 and physically fit, have time to dedicate to the charity and would like to be part of a dynamic team, you can express interest here

Published in Belfast Lough

Adverse weather with strong gusts in the lead up to this week’s racing threatened to spoil the day again for this week’s Charles Hurst Jaguar Land Rover sponsored Junior Icebreaker at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough. Saturday morning however brought warm weather and light winds and a fleet of 18 junior sailors in their Topper dinghies were able to take to the water for their first training session followed by racing. 

The course was set close to the clubhouse, which lead to tricky conditions in the light and shifty winds that were blowing from the shore. Race 1 saw Daniel Palmer lead from start to finish with Katie Brow in second and last year’s overall winner Faye McCartan rounding off the podium.

The second race saw a big shift on the left side of the course favour all those who had ventured in that direction seeing Daniel Palmer once again take line honours from Charlie O’Malley with Hannah Archer in third and Katie Brow staying in contention overall in fourth.

The third and final race was started in lighter winds but this time both sides of the course were even. Daniel Palmer made it a hat trick of first places but had to work this time to overtake Katie Brow who led at the first mark. Charlie O’Malley was third in this breakaway group and these three now lead the series overall.

Tight racing in the chasing pack was led by Romy Maguire ahead of Rex Claney in fifth place and Isobel Nixon in sixth.

Three of the entries were using the smaller 4.2 sail. This group is led by Hannah Bell with Charlotte Cairns second and Desi Gillespie in third. Even with the smaller sails this group were in the mix beating some of the sailors with full rigs.

The Junior Icebreaker takes place on Saturdays in October and November. Young sailors take to the water for training from a group of dedicated coaches. Training is followed by racing which is taken by these sailors as seriously as the adults in the main series on Sunday.

An enormous cruiseship Celebrity Reflection sails into Belfast this morning, bringing thousands of deep-pocketed North Americans to the city's visitor attractions, shops, pubs and restaurants, there are fears it could be the 'end of an era' for this type of tourism.

As The Irish News reports, it comes as the Dublin Port Company sticks to its guns and restricts the number of cruise ships entering its port from 2021 as it increases freight capacity container vessels post-Brexit.

And when cruise ships can't dock in Dublin, then Ireland as a whole could be wiped from tour itineraries - which will impact heavily on Belfast.

In what is known in the industry as a 'turnaround', the Celebrity Reflection dropped off 3,600 cruise tourists in Dublin yesterday while another 3,600 passengers flew into Dublin to begin their cruise, which has Belfast as its next stop today.

Dublin port sees freight (where volumes have swollen by 36 per cent in six years) as more lucrative than cruisers, and last month confirmed the number of tour vessels it will allow to berth will be slashed from 172 in 2019 to as few as 30 in just two years.

Click here to read more on the story.

Published in Cruise Liners

#tallships - The towering and magnificent masts of Tall Ships will grace Belfast city’s skyline once again as the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival sails into town this May.

From Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May, Sailortown, Donegall Quay, Queen’s Quay and Titanic Quarter will come alive at 10am each day with an array of nautical fun and games, food stalls and demos, live music and a treasure trove of street shows and performers.

There will also be opportunities for landlubbers to have their own adventure on the high seas, sailing a kayak, paddle-boarding or even trying yoga on the Lagan.

John Greer, Director of Economic Development said: “Our Maritime Festival is always a great day out and a fantastic opportunity to get together with family and friends on the spectacular waterfront of the city, and this year we’re expanding into nearby Sailortown so there’s even more to see and do.

“Discover more about our city’s seafaring heritage or why not climb aboard some of the visiting Tall Ships and naval vessels that will be docked for the weekend. The spectacular Mexican naval vessel ‘Cuauhtémoc’ will be attending our festival which is really exciting.

“And don’t forget to check out the Maritime Mile – a trail that brings the Titanic Quarter’s maritime and industrial history to life, connecting attractions including the impressively restored naval warship HMS Caroline, one of the world’s largest lighthouse optics, The Great Light, sculptures and viewing points along the way.”

The Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival is organised by Belfast City Council, with support from event partners Tourism NI, Titanic Foundation Ltd and media partner Q Radio.

Orla Ross, Agency Sales Director at Q Radio, said: “We are delighted to be media partner for the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival. This has become an unmissable event in the summer calendar for people all over Northern Ireland. We're looking forward to being there all weekend with our presenters who'll be hosting and broadcasting from this great event.”

Aine Kearney, Director of Business Support and Events at Tourism NI added: “Tourism NI is a proud supporter of the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival 2019. The weekend long festival is a homegrown event celebrating Belfast’s unique maritime history and Titanic legacy providing a platform for visitors to explore and interact with the city.’’

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, said: "We are delighted to sponsor this year’s Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival and are incredibly proud of the creative programme which showcases some of the very best in art and culture from local talent through commissions, installations and performances. It’s set to be a busy weekend along the Maritime Mile and we look forward to welcoming local residents and international visitors to celebrate our wonderful maritime heritage.”

Just beyond the Great Light on the Maritime Mile, is HMS Caroline, one of the finalists for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019. Step on board and explore one of the last remaining ships from the First World War. Discover the Captain’s cabins, get hands on with interactive exhibits or walk along the ship’s historic decks.

Sailortown’s St Joseph’s Church will house a special Maritime Heritage exhibition telling the stories of Sailortown's seamen in WW1. On Saturday 25 May, Barrow Square will host an afternoon of Belfast based Rock, Rhythm and Blues.

Getting to and from the festival couldn’t be easier – walk or cycle along the quaysides from Sailortown, Clarendon Dock to HMS Caroline. Additional cycle parking will be available across all sites.

Alternatively, hop on the Metro Glider from the city centre bringing you directly into the heart of Titanic Quarter or come by train to Yorkgate Station or Titanic Halt. There is no dedicated car parking for the event, but festival-goers are encouraged to use city centre car parks, those within Titanic Quarter or the NCP at Corporation Street.

For more event information and how to make the most of your visit to the Maritime Festival website here

Published in Tall Ships

An event which was once a major highlight of the Belfast Lough programme in times past found a new and very active lease of life when Bangor Town Regatta was re-introduced as a major biennial event in July 2018. The developing RC 35 class - with boats from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales - provided the backbone of a fleet which pushed towards the hundred mark, and a useful variety of excellent sailing conditions in superb weather put the seal of success on an event well–tailored for contemporary needs.

The outline programme for next year’s BTR from Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th June 2020 was unveiled at a launching in Royal Ulster YC at the weekend, and Chairman Gavin Watson announced that RUYC, Quay Marinas who operate the town’s large award-winning marina complex, and the local authority, Ards & North Down Borough Council, will be teaming together to provide the successful formula with some additions which will add to a very complete package for today’s busy sailors.

With a launching attendance which included noted cruiser-racer skipper Jay Colville who is also Vice Chair of Sport NI, RUYC Flag Officers Nigel Hamilton (Vice Commodore) and Rear Commodore Maurice Butler provided further insight into a programme for the needs of today, a 9-race formula which will see the sailing and shoreside communities combine resources to maximise sport afloat and sociability ashore.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Artemis Technologies, a spin-off from America’s Cup team Artemis Racing, is to establish a new facility in Belfast Harbour, initially creating 35 jobs, in a bid to return commercial shipbuilding to the city.

The company led by double Olympic gold medalist, Iain Percy OBE, will use its expertise garnished at the highest echelons of world yacht racing to develop new green maritime technologies and build an ‘Autonomous Sailing Vessel’ (ASV). 

The ASV will be a zero-emissions 45-metre catamaran, that will require no fossil fuels, offer unlimited range, and has the potential to travel at 50 knots, with a cruising speed of 30 knots in any condition.

Artemis Technologies, Chief Executive, Iain Percy OBE, a veteran of four America’s Cup challenges, most recently as Team Manager and Tactician of Artemis Racing says the company has a clear vision: “We aim to lead in the decarbonisation of the maritime industry by building on our America’s Cup heritage and expertise in hydrofoils, wing sails and control systems to develop and manufacture green-powered commercial vessels, helping to ensure a sustainable maritime future. 

“The ASV has a variety of applications including City to City passenger transportation and will be the first in a series of commercial maritime products developed by Artemis Technologies in Belfast using the wind and innovative energy recovery systems.

“Through collaboration, research and innovation we plan to utilise Belfast’s rich maritime history and the region’s world-class expertise in aerospace and composite engineering to create the UK’s most advanced maritime manufacturing facility. 

“The Artemis Technologies’ team already consists of experts from the fields of motor sport, aerospace, yacht design, simulation, electronics and aerodynamics. We plan to share our expertise with Northern Ireland and work in collaboration with stakeholders to grow this sector by delivering innovative yet sustainable maritime products.

At today’s launch in the historic offices of Belfast Harbour, with Artemis Racing’s AC45f America’s Cup yacht moored in the channel outside, Iain Percy set the context and outlined the plans for Artemis Technologies. He said:

“Under a new international agreement, issued by the International Maritime Organisation, the global maritime sector has committed to cutting emissions by at least half by 2050.

“We believe, given our expertise and the strength of the skills base here in Northern Ireland, that we can position the region at the forefront of helping deliver these targets, by developing new green innovations to assist in the decarbonisation of maritime. 

Already the company has received the backing and collaborative support from stakeholders including Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Stena Line, Bombardier, Harland and Wolff, Queen’s University, Ulster University, Belfast Met, NIACE, Creative Composites and Catalyst Inc; and is the lead applicant on a UK Research and Innovation, Strength in Places funding call.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said: “I am delighted to attend the launch of Artemis Technologies in Belfast Harbour and support their ambition to research and develop a zero-emissions shipbuilding facility.

"It’s fantastic news that the company has chosen Belfast to build a 45 metre passenger vessel using a design based on the America's Cup catamaran yacht. To begin there will be 35 high-skilled jobs created but a clear ambition to expand rapidly.

"Building on Belfast’s rich history of shipbuilding and combined with our current world-class expertise in technology and engineering, Artemis will collaborate with local universities and the aerospace sector to help kick-start a modern, shipbuilding resurgence in the city.

"This is brilliant news for Belfast and another example of a world-class company choosing Northern Ireland as the best place to invest, innovate and grow a world-class workforce."

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said: “Belfast Harbour is delighted to support such a hi-tech project which complements our plans to further develop Belfast Harbour as an innovation hub.

“Artemis represents another diverse addition to the 700-plus firms already within the Harbour Estate. This growing community offers high-calibre employment and opportunities which are critical for the economic wellbeing of both Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.” 

Dave Thompson, General Manager of Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering said: “The locating of Artemis’ centre in Northern Ireland is a great endorsement of the technological capability of the region. Artemis is developing products that have the potential to revolutionise sustainable maritime transportation.

“The technologies required to support these developments correspond well with the capabilities and aspirations of our local supply chain. The ASV, and its precursor, will draw on aspects of aerospace, automotive, marine and electrical engineering, in addition to AI, control systems and data security. 

“There are a number of innovative advanced engineering firms in Northern Ireland already operating in these areas and they welcome the unique opportunity to work with Artemis. 

“Local knowledge providers such as NIACE, QUB and UU are relishing the opportunity to collaborate with the company’s technical team on numerous advanced development activities.”

Donal Lyons, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “I’d like to welcome Artemis Technologies to Belfast - its vision for green innovative growth will, I am certain, capture the imagination of all our citizens. I’m delighted to see further investment that brings jobs creation and a boost to the local economy.

“Artemis is one of the success stories from the council’s City for Investment Service which provides a ‘soft landing’ for businesses to tap into council networks and get marketing, employability and skills support. 

“Through the Belfast Agenda and our proposal for a City Region Deal, Belfast City Council is committed to accelerating innovation and research whilst enhancing the skills and employability of its people. Not only will Artemis Technologies help deliver these objectives, but its presence will inspire young people that such world-leading technology is being developed on their doorstep and they can play a part.”

Published in Belfast Lough
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#RNLI - Last Wednesday evening (8 August), two men enjoying an evening’s fishing on their speedboat near Groomsport in Co Down hit rocks and lost their propeller.

Bangor RNLI were quickly called to the scene for what was described as “a textbook tow-in” on the part of the volunteer lifeboat crew helmed by John Bell.

Thanks to their skill, it wasn’t long until they were able to hand the rescued vessel over to the Bangor Coastguard Rescue Team and make their way back to Bangor to enjoy what remained of their evening.

More recently, volunteer crew from Bangor launched to a report of a person in the water on the Carrickfergus side of Belfast Lough yesterday, Monday 13 August.

On arrival, however, the crew determined that it was just a cluster of helium-filled balloons, and returned to base.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

Organiser
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

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