In light of the media reporting over the last few days, the Steam Packet Company would like to outline the present situation regarding the delivery of freight to the Island.

The Irish Sea is experiencing an unusually prolonged period of consistent gale and severe gale force winds and, to make matters worse, these winds have been from an unusual direction which makes berthing in Heysham more difficult.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward explained: ‘Despite the cancellations towards the end of last week, we had almost cleared the port of standard freight traffic by Monday (December 5). All urgent freight traffic had been shipped.

‘Today (Wednesday), we have around 60 trailers in Heysham bound for the Isle of Man. The Ben-my-Chree will sail for Heysham this evening as scheduled at 19.45, returning at 02.15. We will be able to ship in excess of 50 trailers tonight, together with some other freight traffic and passenger vehicles.

‘When there are weather issues, our freight customers do prioritise what is urgent and what is not within the space allocations they have. A number of stores have confirmed that they make provision for such eventualities by utilising on-Island warehousing and this is reflected in the fact that shelves in local stores are not uniformly empty, as has been claimed in the media.

‘In response to calls for us to charter another vessel, we have looked at this possibility. However, given the current weather patterns, it is difficult to see how chartering another vessel, even if one was available, would help the situation. Any vessels that are suitable in terms of size for Douglas harbour are typically older freighters with limited manoeuvrability themselves. However, of much more relevance is that they are simply not readily available for short-term charter.

‘Thankfully the Ben-my-Chree is a very large capacity vessel allowing us to quickly catch up with any freight requirements, so minimizing the potential for disruption.’