Ben-my-Chree returned to normal service this morning (Tuesday), following three days in dry dock during which time the damaged bow thrust unit was refitted.

She operated a freight-only 0215 Heysham-IOM sailing this morning before resuming passenger services with the 0845 IOM-Heysham. Manannan covered passenger and freight services over the weekend, and additionally provided some freight-only sailings for essential supplies.

The Ben was 12 hours late leaving dry-dock as we delayed her entrance by 12 hours, at the request of our freight customers, to allow an additional inbound freight sailing ahead of the busy weekend.

The bow thrust unit was damaged in May this year by ingested debris. The unit was removed in dry-dock in June, and Ben-my-Chree continued to operate on one bow thrust unit while the second was repaired by specialist Scandinavian manufacturer, Wartsila. On two separate occasions, Wartsila failed to meet the promised repair timeframe, which meant planned dry dock slots, freighter charter, crewing and other planned arrangements had to be cancelled.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward explained: ‘In November, Wartsila indicated that the bow thrust unit wouldn’t be delivered until early in the New Year. Because of the difficulty in obtaining dry dock slots and sourcing replacement freighter vessels, at the time we envisaged possibly having to wait until the Ben’s annual dry docking in April to refit the bow thrust unit.

‘However, we maintained pressure on Wartsila and they eventually confirmed the bow thrust unit would be ready for mid-December. I am pleased that Wartsila were able to improve upon the revised delivery dates and that they openly and publicly accepted responsibility for the delay in repairing the bow thrust unit. We were fortunate also that Cammell Laird were able to quickly allocate a dry-dock slot for us.’

Mr Woodward added: ‘The Ben-my-Chree has been the most reliable vessel ever employed by the Company. All vessels are disrupted occasionally by extreme weather conditions such as we have recently experienced. Fortunately, the Ben-my-Chree offers an enormous freight capacity and with it the ability to quickly catch up. The Ben is now back in service but we are pleased that Manannan coped admirably over the weekend, carrying significant freight as well as passengers. We managed to ship over 250 freight trailers before the weekend – equivalent to two miles in length of freight units – and I would like to thank all our staff for their efforts in providing extra services to allow these dry-dock repairs to be completed successfully.’