The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company believes a number of issues need to be clarified following a public consultation by Dong Energy about its Walney Island wind farm plans for the Irish Sea.

Dong held a public information session at the Villa Marina last week to give Island residents the opportunity to view the plans for a 200-turbine extension to the existing Walney Island wind farm off the Cumbrian coast, which opened earlier this year.

Media reports since the consultation suggest that Dong insists that the proposed extension would not require any re-routing to Isle of Man shipping, and wouldn’t present any problems to the Island. However, Dong did state that the Irish Sea would be getting busier, with other projects in the development phase, and that it was undertaking ‘cumulative impact assessments’.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘It was a very interesting presentation at the Villa Marina, and we would welcome continued dialogue with Dong on the cumulative impact of all proposed development within the Irish Sea.

‘There are a number of real issues for the Isle of Man and these need further serious consideration. Dong claimed there would ‘no disruption to Isle of Man shipping’, but this is misleading as we would be left with fewer weather-routing options available to us.

‘Last winter saw 110 days with Force 6 or above, but sailings are rarely cancelled as the Master can take account of the prevailing winds and weather route accordingly to reduce passenger discomfort or cargo damage. With a proliferation of wind farms, the Master may not have the ability to weather route and therefore a sailing that would currently proceed will have to be cancelled – and cancellations are highly inconvenient and costly, for passengers and businesses.’

Mr Woodward added: ‘The Dong Walney public consultation was potentially somewhat misleading to the Manx public as there appeared to be no wall displays showing the adjacent  Centrica/Dong additional proposed developments – no diagrams showing the existing Isle of Man routes, and no displays to illustrate or review what wind farm-induced weather cancellations will mean to Island passengers and businesses.’

Mr Woodward explained: ‘Wind farm developments have already impacted on our services and these developments are just the tip of the iceberg compared to what is now proposed. The further development of wind farms in the Irish Sea has the potential to impact very significantly on Steam Packet Company services and all those who live here or wish to travel by sea. It is not just about our services – it is a threat that needs to be addressed to ensure the future prosperity of our Island.

‘From an environmental point of view, we maintain an impartial view about the benefits, or otherwise, of wind farms. We are not against wind farms and our views on the proposals are not based on the merits of this kind of development. However, we cannot ignore the cumulative impact, of what will be in essence almost a wall of wind farms between the Island and its adjacent neighbours, on the lifeline services we provide to Island residents, visitors and businesses.

‘That must be our priority and it’s our hope that Dong Energy and Centrica will now listen and incorporate  our views – and those of residents, the Isle of Man Government and other passenger and business organisations – into consideration when finalising their plans.’