Isle of Man Steam Packet has signed up an additional freighter as cover for this year’s TT, which means that we have additional passenger capacity now available for the end of Practice Week.

The freighter Merchant Brilliant will be on charter in Practice Week from Tuesday, 27th May until Saturday, 31st May, and also on Monday, 9th June to assist with returning fairground traffic.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward explained: “Although the additional freighter will be surplus to requirements in terms of capacity, it will provide additional resilience and improved service for our freight customers during this busy time. She will also free up additional vehicle deck space on Ben-my-Chree for any late bookings passengers that want to travel.”

Merchant Brilliant was built in 1979 and has capacity for 1,200 lane metres of freight. She is chartered from Norfolk Line, but has recently been operating with P&O and is expected to recommence the Belfast/Heysham service after the TT.

The addition of Merchant Brilliant follows the signing of Stena Caledonia, which will provide extra sailings over the two peak weekends of the festival, and P&O Express, which will provide several sailings from Larne.

Built in 1981, Stena Caledonia usually operates between Stranraer and Belfast. This is her second time in the Island, having served the company during last year’s TT.

She will operate from May 31st till June 2nd and from June 7th till June 9th, providing extra capacity, primarily between Heysham and the Isle of Man, but there will also be an extra Isle of Man-Belfast service.

P&O Express, a 91-metre Incat fast craft, was built in1998 and can carry up to 800 passengers and 200 vehicles. She normally operates from Larne to Cairnryan/Troon and this will be her third successive charter for the TT.

With its regular fleet of Ben-my-Chree, Viking and Snaefell all in service, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company now has six vessels in operation during TT 2008, with around 300 sailings scheduled.

Mr Woodward added: “With Stena Caledonia, P&O Express and now Merchant Brilliant signed up, we have significant extra capacity for passengers. Clearly, it’s unrealistic to make any direct comparison with the record traffic levels carried for last year’s Centenary TT.

“However, to date, bookings for 2008 are up 3% on forward bookings at this stage in 2006. If we continue to have the same number of bookings coming through as we experienced two years ago, we will remain 3% ahead and anticipate carrying approximately 32,000 passengers and 10,000 motorbikes.”