Serious technical difficulties look likely to put the Steam Packet vessel Ben my Chree out of action for the remainder of the holiday period.
Today's sailings between the Island and Birkenhead were cancelled this morning (27 Dec) when crew discovered a fault with the Ben's starboard steering gear.
The company has described this as a 'critical safety issue' - the rudder will not respond reliably to inputs from the bridge - which must be dealt with by the specialist system manufacturer.
However due to the Christmas holidays, the manufacturer says it may be 'some time' before it can provide an engineer to identify and repair the fault.
The Packet is now attempting to bring fast craft Manannan out of her winter overhaul to replace the Ben, and the Arrow will also be brought into service to operate freight sailings.
Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward has apologised to all passengers affected as says everything possible is being done to restore normal services.
An update on the situation is due to be given later today.