The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is to conduct a berthing trial at Holyhead Port to assess its suitability as a back-up alternative to Heysham and Birkenhead.
Tomorrow night (21st May) Ben-my-Chree will sail to the harbour in North Wales for the trial. Passengers are not affected as the vessel is not scheduled to operate any services during the period.
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘This is necessary to ensure maximum flexibility for our services, and robust contingency measures for secure lifeline sea services for the Isle of Man.
‘There have been occasions when entering Heysham has been impossible at certain states of tide, for example over the New Year period when a large piece of wooden debris blocked the harbour entrance for several days. Birkenhead 12 Quays, which the Ben sails to on winter weekends, is in regular use and simply not available to us on a suitable basis.
‘It is in the Island’s interest to have contingency options, so we have been evaluating other alternatives. Holyhead in Anglesey may be suitable, but operationally we need to conduct a berthing trial.’
The Port of Holyhead, a 24-hour, deep-water, lock-free harbour shielded from the Irish Sea by a 1.5-mile breakwater, is only a three and a half hours’ sailing from the Isle of Man. The A55, a dual carriageway, provides a direct connection between central Holyhead and the motorway network, with the M6 only 90 minutes away. The port also has a train station with regular services and direct links to London and Cardiff.
Mr Woodward said: ‘It is prudent to ensure the Company has a range of options for suitable ports if Heysham and Birkenhead are unavailable for any reason. Using Holyhead could maintain the Island’s lifeline to the UK while issues at our other harbours were resolved.’
He added: ‘Ben-my-Chree is scheduled for a routine maintenance night while the trial is taking place, so passengers will not be affected. Any maintenance work required will be carried out while the vessel is in Douglas harbour or during the sailing to and from Holyhead.’