PENARTH Tourism and Visitor Association (PTVA) have criticised the owners of the steamship 'Waverley', after they confirmed the vessel would visit Penarth on just four days later this year.

The Waverley, the last remaining active paddle steamer in the world, will be stationed in the Bristol Channel between the end of August and the beginning of September and will make eight stops in Penarth over the period.

But the PTVA have said that the low number of visits – coupled with the absence of popular ship the Balmoral this summer due to funding issues – will be financially damaging to the town's tourism trade.

The Balmoral has traditionally been a regular summer visitor to the Penarth coastline in recent years, however its owners have already confirmed that the vessel will not sail next year and are still awaiting the outcome of a £3.75m heritage lottery bid to ensure its survival.

While Waverley Excursions have allocated a similar number of Penarth visits to their 2017 timetable, many of last year's trips had to be cancelled due to bad weather and there are fears that if a similar situation arises this summer, it could see Penarth go an entire year without stops from either of the popular vessels.

Anthony Ernest, chairman of the PTVA, has written to Waverley Excursions querying the decision and asking them to reconsider.

In the letter, Mr Ernest said: "It is a little disappointing to see that, once again, Waverley is only cruising in the Bristol Channel for a few occasions in late summer 2018.

"As you know, there are unlikely to be any sailings by your one-time sister ship, Balmoral, for unfortunate funding reasons, and this means that Penarth will only have a handful of sailings this summer.

"As the most popular embarkation port in the Bristol Channel, this will be a serious blow to our economy, let alone that of the Waverley.

"I do hope you can reconsider your timetabling to bring about mid-summer sailings as well."

Waverley Excursions have since responded to Mr Ernest, saying that a decision on this year's timetable had already been made prior to the announcement regarding the Balmoral.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "A number of years ago, we faced commercial challenges which meant there was a real possibility of Waverley never sailing again.

"Since then we have worked very hard to ensure that we plan a viable timetable, one that covers the cost of running the ship.

"We did previously run the Bristol Channel programme in June, but as it bore the costs of fuel and crewing to and from Scotland, it turned it into a loss-making event, and this was something that we could not justify to the councils in Scotland who were funding the ship through a transitional 3-year period.

"When Balmoral came back into operation, it was operating at the same time as Waverley and therefore our chances of earning revenue were reduced, so we reduced the programme to a long weekend that we knew would cover costs.

"Our programme was already set for 2018 when Balmoral announced they were not sailing this year but hoped to be back in 2019.

"Penarth has always been a very important port of call for Waverley and we look forward to our visits each year and welcoming our passengers on board."