The Ben has been operating with one bow thrust unit since the second one was damaged earlier this year after ingesting debris. The damaged unit was removed during an emergency dry-docking. As was openly stated at that time it was the Company’s intention to schedule another dry-docking once the repaired unit had been received back from the manufacturer.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward explained: ‘Despite constant pressure from us, we have been badly let down by the manufacturer. On two separate occasions they failed to meet the promised repair timeframe. Planned dry dock slots, freighter charter, crewing and other arrangements had to be cancelled. The manufacturer now suggests the repaired unit will not be ready until the New Year. This is just as frustrating to us as I am sure it is to our passengers and freight customers.

‘We would, of course, prefer to have two functioning bow thrusts. The Ben has an enviable record of near 100% reliability and we value that very much. Not only do cancellations inconvenience our passengers and freight customers, it also harms the reputation of a fine vessel that has been a great servant to the Island. ‘Unfortunately, severe gales have been much more prevalent this winter than is the norm. This has had some effect on our sailing reliability, but it is quite clear that many of those sailings would have been cancelled even if the Ben had both bow thrusts.

‘We want to speed up the repair time - the costs of operating the vessel with only one bow thrust dramatically increase. Tugs are very expensive and we lose revenue if a sailing has to be cancelled. The bow thrust repair is enormously costly as is the cost of dry-docking the vessel so we need to minimise lost revenue and additional costs.

‘So we are highly motivated to restore the second bow thrust and with it the reliable level of service given by the Ben. However, we cannot take the Ben out of service even when the second unit is ready unless we can source a replacement charter vessel to cover her freight duties. Yet we cannot commit to firm dates for a freighter request until we have clear visibility on the timeline for the repair.

‘Despite initial enquiries, there is no obvious suitable charter vessel available. Of the many freighters in the market, only a few are small enough to fit Douglas and Heysham harbours. For all these reasons, my belief is that we may have to operate with only one bow thrust until the scheduled biennial dry-docking in April, although if we can complete this work earlier we will. We have already fixed a replacement charter vessel for this. I would ask for your understanding and your patience while we work to fix this as quickly as is possible.’