The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company would like to apologise once again to those passengers experiencing difficulty contacting its call centre in the wake of the disruption caused by the technical issues to Ben-my-Chree.

A fault with the vessel’s steering gear means Ben-my-Chree services have been cancelled until Wednesday, by when it is expected that repairs will have been completed.

Manannan has been taken out of her winter overhaul cycle and is scheduled to arrive back in Douglas this afternoon (Sunday). She will operate an 18.30 sailing to Heysham, returning at 21.30 from Heysham, and continue a twice daily service to Heysham on Monday and Tuesday (December 29th and 30th).

Passengers booked on the original Heysham sailings over the next few days have been automatically transferred to the new rescheduled times, albeit now on Manannan.

Meanwhile, Freighter MV Arrow arrived back in Douglas yesterday afternoon and is covering freight services until Ben-my-Chree returns.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘We appreciate that many of our passengers have experienced difficulty in contacting our team since yesterday morning and we sincerely apologise for this. The main issue has been staffing levels. As is our policy at such times, we drafted in additional staff where possible as well as using volunteers from other parts of our business to cope with the sheer volume of calls we were receiving.

‘However, given the time of year, some staff are away on holiday and this obviously restricted what we could do. With it being Christmas, passenger figures for each sailing were high, and this coupled with the limited number of additional staff we could call on meant it was a huge challenge for our team. Some of our staff working late all day until late last night were due to be in again at 06.00 this morning, and I would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication.

‘Some passengers have said that the phones were “turned off”. When our phone system reaches a certain level of calls waiting, which at times yesterday was 60, passengers no longer get the “engaged tone”, which would make it seem like the phones were no longer working.

‘There have been many enquiries regarding the cancelled Dublin service. While we were able to text those customers sailing from Douglas to Dublin, unfortunately it appears that we did not text those on the return Dublin-Douglas service, which we will need to investigate once normal services are resumed.’

For details of the revised twice-daily timetable for Manannan, customers should monitor for updates.

Mr Woodward said: ‘The fault with Ben-my-Chree is most regrettable, but it could not reasonably have been expected and we can only apologise for the disruption it has caused at what is a busy time of year. We are making every effort to restore normal services as soon as possible.

‘Looking to the future, we have plans to upgrade our telephone system in the New Year, and our new reservations system will also enhance communication with our passengers as it allows the opportunity to bulk e-mail. Both of these new systems were already in our plans, and will greatly assist should we experience a similar situation in the future.’