The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s latest investment in freight services will begin operating on April 28th.

MV Arrow, which has been secured on a long-term charter, will cover for Ben-my-Chree while she undergoes her scheduled biennial overhaul. The overhaul, which will include some of the passenger lounges being refurbished and additional seats being added to the Cafe Bar, is expected to take around three weeks. During this time, MV Arrow will provide freight services between Douglas and Heysham and Manannan will cover passenger services.

While Ben-my-Chree is in dry dock, Manannan will provide some passenger services between Douglas and Heysham, including the Saturday mornings of May 3rd, 10th and 17th. This will impact on normal Saturday morning services to Liverpool, but to ensure people who want to enjoy a weekend day trip to the city are able to, the Steam Packet Company is providing a series of special day excursions on each of these Saturdays.

The day excursions will allow people to sail to Heysham, travel to Liverpool by coach and return to the Island the same day from Liverpool. There will also be the option of spending the Saturday night in Liverpool and returning to the Island on the Sunday evening. Prices start from £39 return for adults.

MV Arrow will also supplement Ben-my-Chree and Manannan during the TT period and potentially at other times of peak demand to allow extra capacity for passengers.

Arrow, a 7,606-tonne vessel capable of carrying up to 1,000 metres of freight, will remain available to supplement the current fleet, including being called into service in the event of damage or technical problems with Ben-my-Chree.

For example, from 19th to 21st June, Arrow will provide freight services while Ben-my-Chree is having a repaired stabilising fin re-fitted.

It is currently planned that, when not in use, MV Arrow will be docked at an Irish Sea port and able to start operating on the Isle of Man routes at short notice.

The Steam Packet Company secured the long-term charter of MV Arrow from Seatruck in September last year. The agreement includes an option to purchase, should this be necessary.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘Our freight services are a lifeline for the Isle of Man and we take this responsibility very seriously.

‘Securing MV Arrow on a long-term charter, which represents a multi-million pound investment by the company, allows us to plan for scheduled maintenance periods, such as Ben-my-Chree’s biennial overhaul, as well as providing an enhanced level of back-up in place should it be needed. This investment demonstrates our commitment to providing the quality bespoke service our freight customers and the Isle of Man need.

‘Having access to MV Arrow will also allow us to continue to offer increased capacity during times of peak demand, such as the TT, and potentially in the future assist with the growth of events like the Festival of Motorcycling.

‘In recent years we have been keenly aware that vessels which are suitable for operation in all weathers and at all states of tide in the confined harbours of Douglas and Heysham are now becoming increasingly scarce, making it difficult to charter vessels for short periods and at short notice.’

He added: ‘We are also very pleased to be investing in interior improvements to Ben-my-Chree which will refresh the passenger areas of the vessel and make the travelling experience even better.’