A RECORD number of vessels will be visiting Liverpool in June for the Mersey River Festival.
Mooring spaces at the Albert, Canning and Salthouse docks are already fully-booked and the council has had to rent extra berths in Birkenhead for the first time.
More than 150 tall ships, racing yachts, narrow boats and traditional fishing boats are expected to arrive in time for the four-day event, which begins on Friday, June 18.
Among the visiting boats are the Glaciere of Liverpool, an 1899 Baltic trader which, until last October, had been languishing on the bottom of the Mersey for many years.
Tall ships the Grand Turk, 60-metre square-rigged sailing training vessel the Prince William, and Mir, a Russian cadet training ship, will also be moored in the Liverpool docks.
Warren Bradley, Liverpool City Council's executive member for leisure and culture, said: "The Festival is one of Liverpool's great success stories.
"It has grown every year and is now hugely popular throughout the UK and internationally.
"It is a fantastic advert both for historic Liverpool and our unrivalled maritime legacy and for the new Liverpool and the major changes going on in the city.
"The city council is committed to continuing to develop the festival as part of our strategy to provide a world class programme of events by 2008."
A record number of events, more than 100, are also planned for the festival.
The programme will include international canoe polo, a parade of sail on the river, free lessons in sailing, windsurfing and canoeing as well as steel bands, street entertainers and quayside crafts.
There will also be aerial displays, walks and tours to places and buildings of interest and air and river displays by the Royal Marines.
The Merseyside International Shanty Festival, will take place around the Albert Dock over the same weekend.
Another major attraction this summer will be the steam tug Challenge, the last steam tug on the Thames.
The ship played a major role in the rescue of more than 300,000 servicemen at Dunkirk in 1940.
* THE full Festival programme is available free of charge from city council call centre Liverpool Direct on 0151 233 2008, from Monday, May 17.