With the weather forecast of severe gale force 9 resulting in the cancellation of weekend Isle of Man Steam Packet Company services and likely to cause disruption to other shipping in the Irish Sea in general, Viking completed an extra return trip to Heysham on Friday evening.
This was made possible thanks to effective teamwork and the good relationship the Company enjoys with third party key service providers.
Viking had been scheduled to carry out one return trip on Friday with a similar schedule over the weekend. Recognising that the cancellation of the weekend services would cause significant hardship to passengers booked on those sailings, the Company sought to explore ways in which it could alleviate the situation.
There were a number of factors involved including weather, crew availability and being able to obtain a berthing slot at Heysham outside of the Company’s contracted arrangements.
Throughout the course of Thursday and Friday the Company was able to pull together the various strands resulting in the additional sailings on Friday evening. A key part of this was the attitude of the Viking’s crew who willingly agreed to work extra hours to meet passengers’ needs. It also relied on the goodwill of Norfolkline, who agreed to sacrifice one of their own berthing slots at Heysham in the evening, and of course Heysham Port itself.
Throughout the course of Friday the Company’s reservations team was contacting passengers by text and phone to advise them of the additional sailings. The Company also provided regular updates during the day via its website and the media, advising passengers that it was attempting to provide additional sailings before the forecast bad weather set in.
The crew of Viking and the shore staff at both Douglas and Heysham were able to turn the vessel around very quickly, resulting in her leaving Douglas marginally ahead of her scheduled departure time of 17.05. The return sailing from Heysham departed at 20.05, just five minutes after the scheduled departure time.
Feedback from check-in indicates that passengers appreciated the efforts that had been made to arrange these sailings.
Mark Woodward, Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, said: “I know this has been a very frustrating time for passengers and I am pleased that we have been able to relieve that to some degree by providing these extra unscheduled sailings. I would like to thank passengers for their patience during this time. I would also like to thank the crew of Viking and other staff at the Steam Packet Company and at Heysham Port who I know have a strong desire to satisfy the needs of our passengers. I know that they have put in a significant effort to arrange these sailings and how pleased they were to see so many vehicles and passengers arriving at the check-in.
These sailings would not have been able to take place without the co-operation of third parties at Heysham, for which I am grateful. I am sure many passengers will appreciate the coordination that needs to take place to arrange services outside our normal schedule, especially in the face of continually changing weather conditions. The extent of the forecast deterioration of the weather for the weekend is such that it is unlikely that the Ben-my-Chree would have been able to complete the weekend schedule, however we look forward to welcoming the Ben-my-Chree back in to service next week.”