The Ben-my-Chree will be going into dry-dock from Tuesday 6th January to Friday 9th January, 2009. It is planned that she will return to service for the scheduled Liverpool Birkenhead sailings on Saturday 10th January.

As a result of the damage sustained earlier this year when her propellers became entangled in fishing gear, it has now become apparent that this unscheduled dry-docking is necessary. The damage incident was raised with the Department of Transport at the time, and was found to be due to visiting fishing boats indiscriminately placing their equipment in the approaches to Douglas Harbour.  Action taken by the Department will ensure that this problem should be minimised in future.

During the dry-dock period, the Viking will re-enter service to cover scheduled daytime passenger services to Heysham. There will be no overnight passenger sailings, however, a freighter is being chartered to ensure continuity of service for freight customers.

The Company is contacting passengers on all the affected sailings to advise them of the situation and rearrange bookings as required. Passengers for whom alternative arrangements offered are unsuitable will be offered the option of a full refund.

Mark Woodward, Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, said: “We would not be taking this action unless we felt it was necessary. It is especially frustrating as the damage to the stern tube seal was caused by visiting fishing boats placing their equipment in the approaches to Douglas Harbour. It is vital that we repair the problem now in order to prevent more major and lengthy repairs in the future. The first week following New Year is a traditionally quiet period for us, and allows us to undertake the necessary work with the minimum disruption to services. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.