The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has officially renamed its new vessel Manannan.

The ceremony was performed on board the 96-metre catamaran by Mrs Mary Cringle JP, wife of the President of Tynwald, who unveiled a plaque, which will be displayed on board for all to see.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chairman Robert Quayle opened the event, which also marked Manannan being welcomed to the Isle of Man Shipping Register and proudly wearing Douglas on her transom as her port of registry.

Robert Quayle said: “This ceremony marks another milestone in a major investment programme by the Company. The User Agreement with Government requires us to invest £46 million by 2015. To date we have invested £80 million and it’s still only 2009. Since 1995 the number of passenger services have doubled to Heysham, trebled to Liverpool, freight capacity has quadrupled and even in 2009, a difficult year, passenger numbers are up. Most importantly, passenger fares have halved in real terms over the same period and 80 per cent of our passengers now benefit from special fares! It is quite a contrast to the difficult days of the 70s and 80s.”

Manannan has undergone a complete refurbishment which, it has been noted, is the largest conversion ever undertaken on an aluminium vessel anywhere in the world. The extensive work has included the construction of completely new aft accommodation and a much enlarged skylounge on the top deck, both of which have contributed to the vessel’s increased seating capacity of more than 800 passengers and a car deck capable of holding around 200 cars.

Mr Quayle said: “We want people to enjoy travelling on Manannan and for it to be a vessel of which the Isle of Man can be justifiably proud. This vessel was designed for the 21st century. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company remains a proud Manx institution, here to serve the Isle of Man and its people. We are committed to do that, we will do that to the best of our ability and Manannan is a clear demonstration of our desire to do that.”

Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: “On Friday Manannan completed her first return crossing to Liverpool in 2 hours and 20 minutes. That in itself is significant and much quicker than our existing fast craft Snaefell, who has been averaging around 2 hours 40 minutes. This additional speed, as well as comfort and on-board facilities, are very good news for Island residents and visitors alike. We now have a fast craft that is the equal to if not better than anything else around the British Isles. This is further proof of the benefits of the User Agreement between the Government and this Company and is a clear statement of our desire to provide the highest possible standards of service and facilities for our passengers. Once the timetable post TT has quietened down we intend to hold an open day for any members of the public that wish to have a look round too.”