AN historic pier, which has been closed for repair work, has reopened to visitors in time for the grand finale of The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018.

From 10-14 July the city will be the start port for the international sailing event, which will attract more than 50 ships and up to 1.5m visitors.

And the five-day festival of ships, circus, music, theatre and entertainment will draw to a spectacular close on Saturday 14 July when the ships, from around the globe, take part in a Parade of Sail.

The Parade – out of the port and along the coast - marks the vessels’ farewell to Sunderland as they then head out sea to start the first leg of the Races, to Esbjerg, Denmark.

The ships are expected to start leaving their berths on the river from approximately 1.30pm, led by the majestic Russian ship, the Mir, and start off the Parade of Sail heading northwards to Souter Point. 

They will be followed by the ships berthed within Hudson Dock and all ships will have cleared Roker Pier by around 6pm.

The best viewing point for spectators will be the sea front at Roker and Seaburn, however, 1000 visitors will be able to see the ships in full sail from one of the North East coast’s most impressive landmarks.

In 2012, a programme of extensive restoration began on the Grade II-listed Roker Pier and Lighthouse, which had fallen into disrepair after decades out of use.

The Pier was nearly complete, when, in November 2016, gale force winds and huge waves washed away the railings and their coping stones at the furthest end. Further damaged was suffered during the ‘beast from the east’ storms earlier this year.

However, now, following an extensive programme of repair work, the Pier is once again open to the public.

The Pier’s reopening also means that soon visitors will be able to enjoy tours of the tunnel and lighthouse following restoration of the lighthouse interior, tunnel floors and drains and improvements to accessibility.  

“It’s a wonderful moment in the history of the River Wear,” said Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture.            

“The Pier is the gateway to the river – and to what was once the greatest shipbuilding port in the world - and we are delighted that Sunderland City Council, with funding from the Heritage Lottery, has been able to restore it in time for The Tall Ships Races.”

Weather permitting, the Pier will be open from 12noon until around 8pm, or until all the ships have sailed away.  

Access will be strictly controlled with bag searches - and entry will be given on a first come, first served basis. There are no tickets and entry to the Pier is free. If it is full, people will have to wait until someone leaves before they will be allowed on. Please note that there will be no toilet or catering provision on the pier, the nearest ones will be situated on Marine Walk