18/08/2009

Tall Ships Return Sought

Belfast is set to build on the success of last weekend's Tall Ships extravaganza, to ensure that the event returns to the city in the near future.

Over the four days of the Belfast Maritime Festival, an estimated 800,000 people – the equivalent of half the population of Northern Ireland - saw the 40 magnificent sailing vessels.

More than half a million people visited the actual event in Belfast Harbour, (with the famous Bounty pictured here by Brian McCalden) and a further 250,000 lined the shores to watch Sunday's Parade of Sail.

Even before the ships reach their home ports, Belfast City Council has revealed that initial discussions have already been held with Sail Training International, the organisers of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge, about the possibility of bringing the event back to the city at the earliest opportunity.

"It is vital that we build on the huge success of this past weekend, and work to ensure that the Tall Ships return to Belfast with all due speed," commented Councillor William Humphrey, Chairman of the Development Committee, which oversees the council's civic events programme.

"This past weekend truly placed Belfast on the international map, and once again showed that we are more than capable of organising successful events of a global scale.

"Of the 800,000 people who came to Belfast to see the ships, 100,000 were holiday-makers who had made the trip especially to be here for the event," he said.
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"More than 1,000 crew members also stayed in Belfast, some of them for ten days, and they all said that they received the friendliest and warmest welcome of any port.

"Given that this year they had already visited Tenerife, Bermuda and Boston, that is quite an accolade," he said.

Seeking a third Tall Ships' visit, he said: "We must follow their example and make sure it is not another 18 years before this spectacular event once again is seen in Belfast.

"At the very least, we must apply ourselves to ensuring that the Belfast Maritime Festival becomes a highlight of our city's annual events calendar, with a view to building up to the return of the Tall Ships sooner rather than later," concluded Councillor Humphrey.

The visiting Tall Ships also reported record numbers of visitors on board: the Portuguese Navy vessel, Sagres, for example, reported it’s biggest ever visitor numbers in a single day.

The Energy Saving Trust Gateway to the Tall Ships, at Custom House Square, also had more than 36,000 visitors on one day alone.

It is estimated that 9,000 car parking spaces were used each day, with a total of 36,000 cars using the Park and Ride facilities, including an additional car park created by Belfast Harbour in just six hours on the first afternoon.

Translink employed 65 shuttle buses for the event, moving up to 100,000 people to, from and around the event sites.

See: Massive Goodbye For Tall Ships

(BMcC/KMcA)

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