A remarkable anniversary for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company


Steam Packet Company ferries carry passengers between the Isle of Man and the mainland UK

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company celebrated its 190th anniversary in 2020, making it the oldest operating passenger carrier in the world. The British operator’s first ship was a wooden paddle steamer named Mona’s Isle. Today the island is served by a 96 meter high speed boat built by Incat and a conventional ro-pax vessel providing regular services between the Isle of Man, Heysham and Liverpool and seasonal services between the Isle of Man , Belfast and Dublin.

In 190 years, the company has overcome many challenges, including two world wars. The big challenge today is, of course, Covid-19 and it is a challenge that Steam Packet has faced with a commitment to maintaining the vital service so vital to the survival of the community it serves.

“From that very first ship to the current conventional ferry, Ben-my-Chree, or our fast craft, Manannan, Steam Packet ships have always provided a sense of pride and security to the people of the Isle of Man,” says Mark Woodward. , the general manager of the company. “We are fortunate to be part of the Isle of Man government. This means that from the start of the pandemic, the government asked us to continue providing a regular daily passenger and freight link to our main UK port. Other services to the UK and Ireland have been canceled as borders were closed between the Isle of Man and the UK.

“Due to the need to protect the vital cargo lifeline, it was decided to operate the Ben-my-Chree as a pure freighter, keeping her overnight every night of the week. Passenger service was provided by one round trip per day. While freight revenue has declined dramatically, passenger revenue has all but disappeared. “

The easing of restrictions has resulted in a return to limited passenger service with strict measures adopted to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. “To minimize crew interaction with shore personnel and reduce the risk of transmission, we have switched to a pure live onboard model for our ro-pax vessel – moving the crew from double berth cabins to some passenger cabins, again to minimize close contact, ”said Woodward.

The Isle of Man appears to be much more cautious than most jurisdictions and at the time of publication its borders remain closed to visitors. “Manx residents can now travel, but with the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return,” said Woodward. “Events such as the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling have been canceled this year and we don’t yet know what effect this might have on these events in the future. As we approach autumn and passenger numbers naturally decline, it seems likely that we won’t see a return to normal demand patterns until the Isle of Man fully opens its borders or effective treatment and / or prevention will not be available. “

Woodward suggests that the ferry industry‘s biggest asset going forward is a refocusing of passenger priorities. “Ferry travel, where passengers have the opportunity to try to separate themselves to some extent from other passengers, may be preferred over air travel for the foreseeable future – although the market will necessarily be smaller and that travelers should avoid for longer. remote travel. European seaside resorts are mainly accessible by car and ferry companies may expect vehicle traffic to increase as a result. “

This article first appeared in the Fall / Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at time of printing, but may have changed since.

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