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Isle of Man Steam Packet Signs Contract in Asia for New Purpose-Built Ferry

1st August 2020
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is excited to announce that our new purpose-built vessel will be constructed in South Korea by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD), one of the world’s major shipbuilders The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is excited to announce that our new purpose-built vessel will be constructed in South Korea by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD), one of the world’s major shipbuilders Photo: IOMSPCo-facebook

Shipbuilders in Asia are to custom-build a ferry for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company at a facility in South Korea with the newbuild due to enter Irish Sea service in 2023.

The agreement was officially confirmed yesterday by the Manx operator's Board of Directors, having signed a contract with one of the world’s major shipbuilders, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD), based in Ulsan.

It follows a week-long visit to Korea by senior personnel from the IOMSPCo, during which they visited the shipyard where the vessel will be built, viewed a recently completed ship to assess the standard of work and discussed technical and commercial considerations with HMD executives.

Work on physically constructing a replacement for the conventional ferry, Ben-my-Chree, is now due to start in mid-2021 after detailed plans are finalised and agreed between builder and buyer.

The process began last autumn when the Company commissioned a tender exercise, during which a large number of shipyards around the world expressed an interest in building the bespoke vessel.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘For some time we have been conducting detailed analysis as we develop plans for major investment in our fleet. ‘I am delighted to confirm that, following lengthy discussions with a leading shipyard in South Korea, we have confirmed specifications for the vessel and today signed a contract with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard.

‘This truly is an exciting time in our history and, in the year we marked our 190th anniversary, the new vessel will take the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company forward to our 200th anniversary and beyond.’

The new vessel, expected to commence service in Spring 2023, will be an important part of the Company’s future plans, bringing high levels of on-board facilities and enhanced freight capability.

The Company is also committed to maintaining a third back-up vessel, intended to be the Ben-my-Chree when the new vessel arrives, to enhance security of both passenger and freight links and also help increase capacity during the TT and Classic TT.

Mr Woodward continued: ‘The final specification and build programme is still in development but it is expected the new vessel will be slightly larger than the Ben-my-Chree in most respects but with considerably more passenger space. It is also intended to be more environmentally efficient and manoeuvrable in poor conditions.

‘Factoring in various technical and logistical considerations for a new vessel, and taking into account the recent public consultation exercise where possible, our aim for when we introduce the new addition is to ensure we provide an even higher level of service to the Island community and our customers.’

Published in Ferry
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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