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Isle of Man's Main Ferry Heads to Merseyside for Annual Regulatory Overhaul

24th April 2019
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IOM Steam-Packet's main ferry, Ben-My-Chree arrived on Merseyside in the early hours of today to undergo a regulatory overhaul at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. IOM Steam-Packet's main ferry, Ben-My-Chree arrived on Merseyside in the early hours of today to undergo a regulatory overhaul at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

#ferries - The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's main ferry, the ropax Ben-my-Chree arrived on Merseyside today to undergo an annual regulatory overhaul. 

The work on the 12,000 gross tonnage vehicle ferry with capacity for 630 passengers is to take place at Cammell Laird, the shiprepairer and shipbuilder located in Birkenhead.

The ferry entered the dry-dock at the marine engineering facility on the Wirral Peninsula for one week and is scheduled to return to service on Thursday 2nd May.

In the meantime fast craft Manannan will operate the 'Ben's passenger services on the Douglas-Heysham/Liverpool routes during this period, as per the timetable published last autumn. The MV Arrow, which the Steam Packet Company currently has on charter, will provide freight services.

During the overhaul, Manannan will depart Douglas for Heysham at 08:00 and for Liverpool at 15:30 each day, with the return sailings departing Heysham at 12:00 and Liverpool at 19:15.

A replacement coach service will be provided at Heysham to transfer foot passengers to and from Lancaster railway station.

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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