27/01/2009

Belfast To Host Tall Ships

The Atlantic Tall Ship Challenge is sailing back to Belfast - five years after its bid to have the event return to the city was launched.

NI Sports Minister Gregory Campbell today welcomed the news of Belfast's programme of events to mark the finale of the Atlantic Tall Ship Challenge 2009.

Speaking at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office, Minister Campbell said: "The return of the Atlantic Tall Ship Challenge to Belfast has been a long-standing ambition of Northern Ireland.

"I am pleased that my department has been able to work in partnership with Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and various private sector partners to make this event a reality," he said, noting that many people will remember when the Tall Ships first visited Belfast in 1991.

"It was a spectacular event which demonstrated to many people, at home and abroad, that Belfast and Northern Ireland were somewhere worth visiting," the Minister continued.

Back in January 2004, the Ocean Youth Trust's vessel 'Lord Rank' sailed into Abercorn Basin in support of Belfast City Council's bid to bring the world's finest sailing ships back to the city for the first time since their original, highly successful visit in 1991 and now, five years later, the NI Tourism Minister Arlene is able to welcome the campaign's success.
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Speaking today, she said that the Belfast Maritime Festival 2009, featuring the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge, will place the international spotlight firmly on Northern Ireland this summer.

"We must now build on this achievement and Government, its agencies and local tourism providers must work together to exploit such opportunities as the Tall Ships' visit to Belfast," she said.

"This event will leave behind a 'legacy' worth £1million towards berthing facilities at Queen's Quay, Thompson Dock and Abercorn Basin.

"The Northern Ireland Tourist Board, through its capital grant programme, will contribute £500,000 towards this project which will help develop sailing and tourism here as well as provide infrastructure improvements to support Belfast in attracting other major events in the future."

She said that the new facilities at Queen's Quay, Thompson Dock and Abercorn Basin will be used on an ongoing basis by leisure craft beyond the Tall Ships event generating an additional attraction in the area and boosting the evening and weekend economy.

Concluding, Gregory Campbell said: "Belfast City Council is to be congratulated on securing the participation of world renowned Class A and B vessels.

"The arrival of the flotilla of historic ships on Belfast Lough will provide a wonderful display not to be missed," he said.

See: Belfast bids to attract 'Tall Ships' in 2008

(BMcC/JM)

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