In March 2019, a new Sea Services Agreement was finalised between the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and Department of Infrastructure, laying the framework for future investment in the Island’s lifeline sea links. It set the wheels in motion to construct a replacement vessel for our conventional ferry, Ben-my-Chree, and we have since been busy progressing plans for the exciting new development.
We would like to keep our customers, fellow Islanders and friends up-to-date by sharing the progress of this bespoke new build through this blog. Below is its story so far, starting with the most recent and moving backward in time, with lots of milestones yet to come. Keep an eye out for future updates!
JULY: BOARD DECIDES ON PREFERRED SHIPYARD
After months of extensive discussion and deliberation, the Steam Packet Company Board of Directors made a decision on a chosen shipyard. It was decided that the new vessel will be constructed at one of the world’s major shipbuilders, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) in South Korea.
The shipyard selected is one of the world’s leading blue chip names in the industry, with a proven track record of delivering vessels on time, to budget and to its trademark high standards.
JUNE: RESULTS OF SURVEY INCORPORATED INTO VESSEL DESIGN
Throughout June, our team spent time fine-tuning the designs of the vessel and incorporating the results of the survey – and our customers most valued preferences – into the designs, where it was possible to do so. While there are many technical considerations that need to be factored in when designing a new vessel, one of our top priorities is ensuring it meets the needs of our passengers and the results of this survey formed an important part of that.
APRIL: SURVEY FINDINGS PUBLISHED
In April, we released a detailed summary of the survey findings following our analysis. It was found that the following on-board services and facilities were considered important by our passengers:
- wider choice of food and drink
- more portable device charging points
- an increase in the number of standard cabins available
- a larger and more comfortable area for passengers travelling with pets
- a children’s play area suitable for a wider range of ages
- larger lifts from the vehicle deck
A full summary of the facilities and services that travellers would most like to see on the Heysham route can be found here.
FEBRUARY – MARCH: SHIPYARD VISITS
In February, our senior management team undertook visits to the shortlisted shipyards. Selecting a shipyard is one of the most crucial decisions of the shipbuilding process and requires a careful and quantified approach. There are a huge number of factors to take into consideration and we had to be thorough in our approach to ensure the most suitable shipbuilder was selected. The shipyard visits played an important part in this.
JANUARY – APRIL: ANALYSIS OF SURVEY
Between January and April, our focus was on conducting a detailed analysis on the findings of the survey and working out priorities for the new vessel. We were keen to gain a better understanding of our passengers’ travel preferences so we could factor this into the design where possible.
NOVEMBER – DECEMBER: SURVEY LAUNCHED
To help us understand what is important to our customers and gauge public views as we prepared for major investment in our fleet, we launched a survey in November 2019. Island Global Research was commissioned to carry out the research, with the aim to identify which on-board facilities and services were considered most important to our passengers.
We were overwhelmed with the positive response with around 8,000 people contributing.
OCTOBER: OUT FOR TENDER
In the autumn of 2019, we issued a tender to shipyards around the world, inviting expressions of interest to build the bespoke vessel. We received an encouraging response from a range of specialist shipbuilders, and the team then had the task of reviewing and assessing each submission and whittling the selection down.