Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel Ben-my-Chree has returned to service following the completion of repairs to a technical issue suffered on Sunday.


Ben-my-Chree departed for Heysham at 8.14pm on Monday, less than 30 minutes behind schedule, after Island-based Steam Packet Company engineers, assisted by a specialist contractor, finished replacing a cylinder head-securing stud which had failed on one of the vessel’s two main engines.


This required removal and replacement of the failed stud, which is almost 1 metre in length, as well as fitting a new piston and cylinder liner, refilling the engine with coolant and undertaking engine trials in Douglas harbour.


Previously the stud would have been removed by drilling it, which is a time-consuming and labour-intensive procedure. However, specialist contractor Foretract Engineering assisted Steam Packet Company engineers to employ a different process, known as spark erosion, which uses electrical discharge to speed up the removal process.


While work was under way, fast craft Manannan was brought in to accommodate passengers on Sunday’s cancelled 2.15pm Heysham service and MV Arrow operated freight services between Douglas and Heysham.


Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘I would like to once again apologise to passengers who had their travel plans disrupted by this unfortunate failure. Ben-my-Chree is an extremely reliable vessel which operates an intensive year-round schedule, but even with our rigorous maintenance programme equipment failures can happen from time to time. On behalf of the Company I’d like to thank our passengers for their patience and understanding while repairs were carried out.


‘Thanks to our contingency planning we were able to operate an additional service with Manannan to accommodate some of the affected passengers and continue freight operations with Arrow. This again demonstrates the value of investing in backup for the Island’s fleet.’


He added: ‘This was a complicated and labour-intensive repair, but was completed in a very short timescale thanks to the fact we have highly skilled and dedicated engineers based in the Isle of Man and maintain an extensive on-Island store of spare parts. The use of the relatively new process of spark erosion with our contractor Foretract Engineering also significantly reduced the turnaround time, allowing the problem to be identified and rectified as quickly as possible, to minimise disruption.


‘I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work of our engineers on ship and ashore, which ensured services were restored by Monday evening. The Captain exercised great skill in taking the Ben out of Heysham in very windy conditions with only one engine. I’d also like to thank the crews of Ben-my-Chree and Manannan for their sterling work, everyone at the Ferry Travel Shop and at the ports who worked tirelessly to assist affected passengers and all my colleagues who assisted during this difficult period.’