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Ferry Senior Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. Figures to Retire This Summer

28th March 2021
Two senior figures of the Isle of Man Steam-Packet are to retire from their positions as CEO and Commercial Director, from July. Above Douglas, the Manx capital, AFLOAT adds is seen from the ro-pax Ben-My-Chree's uppermost vehicle 'weather' deck during a routine crossing on the main year-round operated route to Heysham, England.  Two senior figures of the Isle of Man Steam-Packet are to retire from their positions as CEO and Commercial Director, from July. Above Douglas, the Manx capital, AFLOAT adds is seen from the ro-pax Ben-My-Chree's uppermost vehicle 'weather' deck during a routine crossing on the main year-round operated route to Heysham, England. Credit: IOM Steam-Packet-twitter

Senior figures in the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co.,who between them have amassed more than half a century of dedicated service to the Manx ferry company are to retire later this year.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Woodward and Commercial Director John Watt will both stand down from their roles in July 2021.

Well-respected by colleagues ashore and afloat, they have collectively chalked up 58 years during which time they have overseen a number of changes, including the acquisition of the IOM Steam-Packet by the Manx government and managing the detailed operation to secure a new purpose-built vessel, which is due to come into service in 2023.

Mark Woodward joined the Company in 1989 as Management Accountant, moving to Operations in 1995. He succeeded the late Hamish Ross as Chief Executive Officer in 2007.

At the helm for the past 14 years, during which time the Company has gone from strength-to-strength, his extensive knowledge and experience have proved invaluable, creating a strong long-term platform to deliver continued investment in sea services that meets the needs of the Island.

He commented: ‘I have been contemplating retirement for a year or so now. While I was pleased in December to be asked to stay for a few more years, ultimately the glimpse of freedom offered by working from home last year led to my final decision. I have steered the Company through both calm seas and choppy waters for 14 years now and I am happy it will be in safe hands under the Chairmanship of Lars Ugland.

‘I will, of course, miss all my colleagues and the camaraderie in the office. It has been a genuine pleasure and an honour to work for such a vital and historic Company.’

John Watt moved to the Company in 1995 and joined the Board of Directors eight years later. During his tenure, the number of passenger sailings have more than doubled, while average fares paid have halved in real terms.

He said: ‘It has been a privilege to serve this great Company over a fascinating period in its long history. In that time, fast craft has replaced conventional tonnage in some areas, special offers rather than standard fares have become the norm, the number of Liverpool services has virtually trebled and Heysham passenger services have doubled. It has been a real pleasure working for such an important Company and with such friendly and professional colleagues.’

Chairman Lars Ugland added: ‘I’d like to place on record our gratitude for both Mark and John’s long service and acknowledge the fine contribution they have made.

‘Under Mark’s leadership, the Company has made great strides to provide what is best for our Island, stabilising the long-term future of sea services for the Isle of Man and its people.

‘His quick intelligence, huge experience, sense of humour and loyalty have made him an excellent Chief Executive and he has offered a constant wise counsel, always with the best interests of the Company and the Isle of Man at heart. He will be much missed by me, the staff and the Board.

‘Likewise, John’s diligent and efficient manner has served us well and he too will be greatly missed, both on a personal level as well as for his contribution to the Company's success.’

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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