As a result of a prolonged period of use in very heavy weather, it has become apparent one of the stabilising fins of Ben-my-Chree has suffered some damage.

As these items are underwater, it is not possible to ascertain the full extent of the damage without dry-docking the vessel. The vessel has effective stabilising efficiency with only one fin operational but clearly, for passenger comfort, two operational stabilising fins are preferred.

This does not impact on the vessel's ability to sail nor to berth safely, but for the reasons above it may have a limited impact on marginal weather sailings. The repair time, if the fin is removed, repaired and replaced in the same period, is estimated at a week and the vessel would need to go into dry-dock.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘After assessing the practical implications and options, which range from simply not using the second stabilising fin until the next scheduled dry-docking of Ben-my-Chree to looking for an earlier window in which to dock her, we have concluded that an early repair is the preferred option.

‘However, no freighter charter cover is available to allow us to take the Ben out of service for a week. Instead we are looking to take the Ben out of service for two consecutive periods of between 72 and 96 hours each. Provisional dates have been identified. The first of these (17th-20th January) will be to remove the damaged stabilising fin so that it can be sent away for repair. The second (8th-10th February) will be to reinstate the repaired fin.

‘We have arranged for a chartered freighter to provide one return service on both the 19th January and 9th February to assist with freight needs.

‘Manannan will be brought into service for both of these periods in order to cover our passenger commitments and will also provide a limited freight service. Passengers should note that the scheduled weekend Birkenhead sailings will instead operate to and from Pier Head in Liverpool.

‘We recognise the inconvenience this may cause to passengers and freight customers and apologise for this necessary disruption to normal services. However, we believe that with prior notice and the ability to forward plan any difficulties should be minimised. Any additional changes to our schedules will be announced as soon as they are known.

‘In the meantime Ben-my-Chree will continue to operate as scheduled.’