The Department of Infrastructure and Isle of Man Steam Packet Company are reminding commercial and leisure craft users not to dispose of unwanted equipment into the sea or lay fishing gear on known shipping routes after fishing gear became entangled on a propeller of the Ben-my-Chree.

On Sunday morning, during routine pre-sailing inspections, fishing gear was seen to be tangled around one of the propellers of the Ben-my-Chree. Previous incidents have led to vessels being taken out of service for prolonged periods of repairs, inconveniencing Island business and passengers.

Following changes to the out-of-hours diving cover provided by the Department, a dive team was not available to respond immediately. In an effort to reduce delays for passengers, the quick-thinking ship’s crew called on the services of visiting Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Brocklesby, whose dive team was able to remove the tangled fishing gear.

In recognition of the assistance provided, passengers and the Steam Packet Company made a donation of £2,000 to charities supporting ex-servicemen and women injured in the line of duty.

The Navy dive team were assembled, safety procedures completed and diving started at about 9.40am. A large amount of fishing pot rope was recovered, enough to fill a large bin bag, both propeller shafts were declared clear and the vessel sailed at 10.18am.

Director of Harbours Captain Michael Brew said: “Abandoned fishing gear and other equipment presents a hazard to shipping, and can cause serious damage to vessels. It was fortunate on this occasion the vessel was not severely damaged and that the many passengers using the Steam Packet service were not greatly inconvenienced. Once again the Department would like to remind the crew of all vessels around the Island’s coast, both commercial and leisure, to avoid laying fishing gear in the approaches to harbours or further out to sea on known shipping routes and to ensure equipment is not dumped at sea.”

He added: “Following consultation with those directly involved last year, we changed the out-of-hours cover provided by our diving team in March this year, following a three-month notice period. This was part of an ongoing commitment by the Department to deliver best value to taxpayers, and the savings the changes will deliver are estimated to be around £35,000 each year. The change reflected the experience of the Harbours Division over the preceding five years that a dive team on-call was not necessary for normal operational purposes.”

“During our consultation, issues which may affect the Steam Packet were raised and we highlighted contingency plans for consideration. We are continuing to discuss these matters with our colleagues at the Steam Packet, most recently at a meeting on Monday.”

Mark Woodward, Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the ship’s crew for their decisive action to request assistance from  the dive team from the visiting naval vessel, and express my thanks to that team.”

“I’d also pay tribute to the passengers who showed their gratitude with a substantial charitable donation, which I am delighted to say we have matched.”

“On a number of occasions our vessels have been damaged and our sailings delayed or cancelled because of carelessly laid or abandoned equipment and fishing gear. It causes huge inconvenience to our passengers and freight customers, as well as unnecessary repair costs for us.”

He added: “This incident has highlighted our need for out-of-hours diving cover and we will continue our discussions with the DoI over contingency plans the Harbours Division have previously raised.”