As the start of a new year approaches while another gently draws to a close, we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on a truly remarkable year.
The year that marks 190 years at sea for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has been like no other. No one could have foresaw the events of this year; a global pandemic transforming the ways in which we live and go about our daily lives.
Although undeniably challenging and unrelenting at times, there is still much to be grateful for and many positives to take away from this unusual period. 2020 has brought out the very best in people, with communities across the globe joining together in unity and in strength. It is comforting to see the prevalence of this both in our small Island and in communities all over the world.
The necessity to restrict travel to and from the Isle of Man and close the borders to non-residents has, of course, affected our business greatly over the past nine months. However, our duty to maintain lifeline freight links has remained and it is with great pride that we have continued to operate daily services throughout the pandemic safely and securely, ensuring essential food, medical supplies and other goods can be transported to the Isle of Man.
None of this would have been possible without the efforts of our incredible team, who have handled themselves with professionalism every step of the way. The initiative they have shown, the problems they have overcome and the hard work they continue to put in has ensured the smooth continuation of operations throughout these challenging times.
As many of you will know, this year marks a particularly special milestone for the Steam Packet Company – our 190th anniversary. It has been a great honour to mark this commemorative occasion and reflect on almost two centuries of our maritime history. We have enjoyed taking the time to look back on our long and diverse past, and earlier in the year released two blogs which looked at nine key moments in our history and our historic fleet.
To mark the day that our first ever vessel, Mona’s Isle, was launched 190 years ago, we dressed our fleet and sounded the whistles in Douglas Harbour on 30th June. This commemoration was an enjoyable way to mark the anniversary and share the exciting celebrations with the public. Check out our Fleet Operations Manager Jim Royston talking about the significance of the day with ITV Granada Reports here.
This year also marked the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk, an operation which involved several Steam Packet Company vessels. Sadly, due to the pandemic, the memorial service and other special events which were planned to mark the anniversary were unable to go ahead. This included a team of professional divers undertaking a dive at the wreck of one of our lost vessels – Mona’s Queen – to place a plaque at the site, as well as an exhibition to highlight the Island’s links to the heroic operation. We are hopeful that these can instead take place in 2021.
Despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic, there has been plenty going on behind the scenes and plans for the replacement vessel for the Ben-my-Chree have been progressing well. It was announced in July that it will be constructed at one of the world’s major shipbuilders, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) based in South Korea. Then, earlier this month after much thought and deliberation, we revealed that the name of the new addition to our fleet will be Manxman. These are exciting times for the Company with much more yet to come.
To keep up-to-date with the progress of Manxman, check out our blog – Isle of Man Steam Packet Company: New Vessel Progress – which will be updated as new progress is made.
Looking ahead, we are optimistic that the current situation will improve and we can return to some form of normality in the not-so-distant future. We have greatly missed the hustle and bustle of our usual services and it is disappointing to have not had the opportunity to welcome thousands of visitors to our special Isle this year, nor welcome Island residents on board for the first or final part of their travels. We are hopeful that 2021 will be very different.
For those starting to think about travel plans for next year, sailings are open and available to book for the whole of 2021. We understand that booking travel can be a little unsettling in the current climate, which is why we introduced our Book with Confidence Commitment. This means amendment fees will be waived if you choose to change your travel dates due to COVID-19 Government imposed travel restrictions, or a full refund can be made available if your booking needs to be cancelled for the same reason.
We hope this gives you greater flexibility and peace of mind when booking future travel and we look forward to welcoming you on board one day soon.