Today’s (Wednesday) Manannan services were cancelled last week to allow for essential maintenance to be carried out. The affected sailings are the 1500 IOM-Liverpool and return 1900 Liverpool-IOM.

Occasionally some jobs cannot be completed during the normal overnight maintenance period and this is one such occasion. This work was planned a week ago and all affected passengers were advised and given alternatives. Wednesday was chosen in order to minimise inconvenience as the quietest day of the week. Manannan will resume her normal schedules tomorrow (Thursday).

All fast craft require a high level of daily maintenance to monitor, maintain and replace components. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has spent more than £1 million pounds this year on Manannan in order to maintain the vessel. It is disappointing therefore that Manannan has suffered several reliability issues this year which are related to wholly avoidable incidents at sea leading to damage, rather than any lack of maintenance or inherent unreliability.

An increasing problem is that of fishing pots and marker buoys. Damage from ingested fishing pots and associated gear on the approaches to Douglas is a particular problem.
Fast craft operate by channelling water through an underwater impellor and on several occasions these have also ingested a fishing marker buoy. This impacts the impellor and causes associated impellor blade, gearbox and power train shock. This can damage both shaft bearings and, as happened only recently, also damage gearboxes inconveniencing many thousands of passengers and costing many hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair.

As our passengers will know, items such as gearboxes are specialised pieces of machinery specific to particular vessels. As such, when a failure occurs as a result of damage, it can be several months before necessary spare parts can be made by manufacturers who, due to the high cost of manufacture, do not typically stock such items.

Mark Woodward Chief Executive said: ‘The Isle of Man needs protected navigation routes and the co-operation of all those fishing in Manx waters to help prevent this sort of damage to our vessels and the resulting inconvenience to many thousands of passengers. Our fast craft have now suffered damage on nine separate occasions in recent years as a result of fishing gear ingestion in Manx waters.

‘It is time that the navigational approaches into Douglas Harbour were better protected as is the case with all other ports we serve. This is essential to protect the Island’s lifeline and maintain reliable services for passengers.’