The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is pleased to update the travelling public on progress towards Manxman’s first service sailing.
Since the arrival of the new vessel at Douglas, Isle of Man, just over a month ago, considerable work has been undertaken to prepare Manxman for its role as flagship and workhorse of the fleet.
Some of the work has been very visible to the public, such as the successful test of the Marine Evacuation System in Douglas harbour under the watchful eyes of Isle of Man Ship Registry surveyors.
Manxman’s masters, officers and crew have also been in the public eye as they test the manoeuvrability of the vessel, and learn how the largest ever ship in the Manx fleet handles in a range of conditions in ports and at sea.
Manxman has now completed berthing trials at Douglas and Heysham and has also paid an initial visit to Belfast where the captain on the day received a commemorative plaque from the harbour authorities.
The port visits have also allowed two of the masters to achieve their Pilot Exemption Certificates, with a third expecting to be signed off in the next week.
While the public has been very aware of Manxman’s movements as it works up, much more has been going on behind the scenes to ready the vessel for service.
A parallel stream of work has been dealing with the snagging list established since before the vessel left the yard in South Korea, and added to on the return voyage. As a bespoke-built one-off vessel this is a perfectly normal part of the project, and the Company is working with the builders to resolve the outstanding items, with contractors on board the vessel most days.
An important piece of work that has gone on out of sight, but that will be visible to users when passengers are aboard is the improved coating applied to both car decks. The work has been carried out by specialist contractors to meet the high standards of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Also outside the public’s gaze but of vital importance to the safe operation of the ship, and ongoing all the time is crew training, familiarisation and the development and implementation of safety procedures and drills.
Manxman is a huge step forward from both Ben-my-Chree and Manannan in terms of technology, and requires entirely new ways of working. The crew of Manxman and shoreside staff have been working tirelessly to develop and implement operating procedures as real-life knowledge of the vessel grows.
Most importantly for the travelling public the Company is confirming details of Manxman’s introductory service. As previously announced, Manxman will initially only carry out daytime sailings (departing Isle of Man 08:45, departing Heysham 14:15) for a period of approximately four weeks. Ben-my-Chree will run the overnight sailings for this period, with a slightly later departure time of 20:15 from Douglas, departing Heysham for the return sailing at 02:15. The slightly later departure time from Douglas will allow for operational flexibility around berths.
At the end of the four week period of daytime only sailings, Manxman will undertake the previously announced cruise, before commencing four weeks of night time sailings, with Ben-my-Chree switching to the daytime schedule.
The split schedule allows Ben-my-Chree to immediately take over if for any reason Manxman has to be taken out of service during the working up period with minimal disruption to the schedule. At the end of the working up period Manxman will take over fully on the Heysham route, with Ben-my-Chree entering fleet reserve status.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Managing Director Brian Thomson commented, ‘I’m really proud of how the crew and our staff ashore have pulled together to get Manxman to a point where we’re almost ready to make the announcement we know everyone is waiting on: when the first service sailing will take place. I’m pleased to say that the timeline is now weeks rather than months. I’ve always been really clear that we won’t rush things to have Manxman in service before it is ready, but everyone involved in this project is working hard every day with only one goal in mind, getting Manxman into service.’
He added: ‘The work up period is a sensible approach to allow everyone to get fully familiarised with the day-to-day operation of the vessel without adding undue pressure. Of course, we don’t anticipate having to take Manxman out of service during this period, but it is a brand new, custom built, highly complex system and it would be foolish not to plan for eventualities. As always, safety is our number one priority, and ensuring continuity and reliability of our lifeline service is a very close second.’