We are now well into 2011 and looking forward to the challenges that this year will bring.

2010 was certainly an interesting year for us as we experienced increased competition on both the passenger and freight sides of the business. 2011 promises to be equally challenging as we seek to provide the frequent and reliable services to which passengers have become accustomed, well in excess of our obligations to Government and the travelling public under the User Agreement.

Late last year we stated that we would have to review sailing frequency and fares as a result of increased freight competition. That review has taken place and I am pleased to say that we have largely been able to maintain frequency of service and capacity although, as envisaged, we have had to make some operational changes.

The Ben-my-Chree will continue to provide the sterling service to which we have all become accustomed with a twice daily service on the Heysham route and a weekend day-time service to Birkenhead during the off-peak season. During 2010 the Ben achieved 100% reliability from a technical perspective having missed no sailings due to technical reasons. Even taking into account weather related cancellations, the Ben still has a reliability rate of over 99% and is without doubt one of the most reliable ships ever used by the Company in our 180-year history.

Manannan will be re-entering service at the end of March following a period of extensive inspection and overhaul over the winter months. Work to the main and auxiliary propulsion systems in excess of that recommended by the manufacturers has been carried out as we strive to achieve the high standards of reliability we set ourselves. In spite of the problems we experienced with a crankshaft failure on Manannan in 2010, she missed only one return trip last year due to a technical problem. The work that has been carried out over the winter period aims to ensure that we can achieve our target crossing times and provide passengers with reliability of speed as well as the comfortable and spacious surroundings that Manannan has delivered.

Snaefell no longer features as part of the operational fleet. This means that passengers travelling on the Belfast and Dublin routes will benefit from the enhanced levels of comfort and sea-keeping abilities that Manannan offers as will those travelling on the Liverpool route midweek.

This development means that we can now carry bigger vehicles such as coaches and larger motorhomes and vans on the Irish routes which will help open up new markets for the tourism sector.

While we have had to review the number of sailings on these routes, the exclusive use of Manannan to provide fast craft services means that total passenger capacity during 2011 has actually increased.

To help with peak demand during the TT period we will be chartering P&O Express once again on the Larne route.

We have also maintained special offer availability with over 900,000 seats at special offer fares during 2011. In addition to our established footloose and vehicle special offers, the TT Taster and Children Go Free offers feature again in 2011. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, our range of offers provides something for most people. On average, fares for 2011 have increased by less than inflation and our entry level footloose fare has been reduced to £17.50 each way.

The Steam Packet Company is committed to its role as the Island’s provider of lifeline freight and passenger ferry services. It is a role we have proudly undertaken for many years and have consistently delivered under the User Agreement with Government. We aim to continue to provide the reliable services to which the Island’s residents, businesses and visitors are entitled and expect.