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'Too expensive' to keep Ben-my-Chree ready for sea at all times, says SPC

It's after an increase in the number of cancelled sailings

It's 'too expensive' to keep the Ben-my-Chree ready for sea at all times, according to the Steam Packet Company

Currently, if there's an issue with the Manxman, it takes 12-hours to prepare the vessel as a replacement.

In a statement sent to Manx Radio, the Steam Packet Company says as the backup vessel, the Ben-my-Chree has a core crew on board at all times.

However, it claims that because of its age, there are more maintenance requirements for the Ben and the ongoing job list is 'quite extensive'.

Therefore, it says being on immediate readiness stops the crew from being able to carry out these tasks.

For example, it's not possible to complete more complex tasks that need most of a shift for strip down, rectification and rebuild on short notice.

The company says, if the Ben were on six-hour notice for instance, there'd only be enough time for one hour strip down, four hours of work and one hour of rebuild.

However, being on 12-hour notice means much more complex tasks can be undertaken, reducing the need for work to be completed in dry-dock, increasing availability and reducing costs.

Once a decision has been made to activate the Ben for service, the 12-hour window gives time to prepare, including warming the engines and machinery, stocking stores with perishables (as nearly all of the food served on board is cooked from fresh), transferring crew from other vessels in order to bring Ben-my-Chree up to passenger service levels and completing a checklist of tasks in order to prepare the vessel for sea.

According to a response to a written Tynwald question, the Treasury Minister, Alex Allinson, revealed the number of cancelled sailings in the last quarter of the year almost doubled from 2021 to 2023.

46 sailings were cancelled in the last quarter of 2023, compared to 26 in the same period of 2021.

Dr Allinson says last year's statistics were affected by a number of issues, including an unprecedented number of storms and familiarising crew with handling the Manxman in extreme weather to avoid the risk of an accident resulting in catastrophic injury, damage or pollution to ship or port infrastructure.

You can see the full written response HERE.

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