Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel Manannan resumed her schedule shortly after midday on Tuesday following the cancellation of Monday evening’s sailing from Liverpool to Douglas.
The ship’s captain made the difficult decision to cancel the sailing after exhausting all options to remedy an electrical control system fault which prevented one of the engines from starting. Specialist engineers attended Manannan on Tuesday morning to repair the system and she returned to service without issue later in the day.
It is always the aim of the Steam Packet Company to sail unless safety concerns or technical issues make that impossible, so the decision to cancel is not made lightly and is left as late as possible to minimise disruption to the travelling public. Unfortunately, on Monday the issue could not be fixed by on-board engineers.
While attempts to repair the issue were being made, passengers were kept informed of the situation, with the vessel communications log showing nine announcements were made on the vessel. In addition, staff updated official social media pages and the Company website as news from the vessel became available.
When it became clear there was no option but to cancel the sailing, passengers were informed immediately and arrangements for accommodation and transfers were made. Ben-my-Chree’s overnight sailing from Heysham was delayed to allow vehicles to transfer. As the Ben was also very busy it was not possible to accommodate all vehicles, so some remained in Liverpool.
Unfortunately, due to it being a Bank Holiday, the Steam Packet Company was unable to secure coaches to transfer foot passengers to Heysham at short notice to sail on Ben-my-Chree. Instead, attempts to secure sufficient accommodation in Liverpool were made. Once again, due to the Bank Holiday and a number of events in the city, there was only limited hotel availability to accommodate the more than 400 passengers who remained in Liverpool.
The Steam Packet Company managed to secure 115 bedrooms in the Thistle Hotel and a further 40 rooms at the Hotel Formule1.
In order to ensure all affected passengers were kept up to date, the Steam Packet Company sent text messages out at 0800 on Tuesday asking passengers to go to the Pier Head terminal at 1100. A further text message was sent at 1100 confirming the sailing would go ahead at midday.
The cancellation of the Liverpool service also led to the Tuesday morning’s Belfast sailing being cancelled. Text messages were sent to passengers affected by this cancellation informing them of the schedule change. The Steam Packet Company call centre opened at 0600 on Tuesday, two and a half hours earlier than normal, to help affected passengers make alternative arrangements.
Following the decision to cancel the Liverpool sailing, the Steam Packet Company requested police attendance at the Liverpool terminal. This was done for two reasons; the safety of staff and the safety of the more than 400 passengers who were disembarking and would be gathering in a small area before crossing a busy main road.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘I would first of all like to apologise to all passengers affected and thank many of them for their understanding and patience as we first attempted to resolve the issue to allow the sailing to leave and then tried to assist with transfers and overnight accommodation. Unfortunately there was a small number of passengers whose behaviour was atrocious, who both physically assaulted and verbally abused shore staff in Liverpool, as well as damaging fixtures and fittings in toilets and the main departure lounge.
‘I would also like to thank all our staff, who were working in difficult circumstances, and in the face of some very unpleasant and threatening behaviour. I believe they did everything they could to protect passenger safety and assist as much as possible. The police in Liverpool should also be thanked for their prompt and professional response, helping to calm passengers and safely escort them to the accommodation, including closing the busy main road at one point to allow a safe crossing.’
Mr Woodward added: ‘This was a very busy sailing and due to the Bank Holiday it was extremely difficult to find sufficient accommodation and not possible to find coaches to transfer foot passengers to Heysham.
‘Despite it being a busy Bank Holiday weekend in Liverpool, our staff managed to secure more than 150 hotel rooms, transfer 85 vehicles to an alternative sailing and even secured the conference room at the Thistle Hotel which, whilst not ideal, did provide a warm and safe place for people to rest if they chose to.
‘Every attempt was made to keep passengers on board informed as the situation developed, with the captain making nine announcements, and to communicate with those whose travel was affected by the cancellation. This is a further example of why it is so important to give us a current mobile phone number when booking, so we can inform passengers of any changes to the schedule.’