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A Manx Parliament (Tynwald) select committee is looking into the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, which will involve evidence sessions this month.

The Tynwald reports 3FM, will host the two evidence sessions as the select committee is investigating the sea services agreement and the government's shareholder status with the IOMSPCo.

The ferry company operates a year-round Douglas-Heysham route in addition to three seasonal routes linking Belfast, Dublin, and Liverpool, and where a new terminal is to open. Operating these routes involves two ferries (one in reserve), a fast ferry (seasonal-only), and a freight-only ferry, which is called upon during busy periods and relief duties.

The select committee’s session today is to take evidence from Treasury Minister Alex Allinson, Chief Financial Officer at the Treasury, Caldric Randall, and Interim Executive Officer for Financial Governance, Sarah De-Yoxall.

This morning at 10.30 a.m., the committee will sit in the Legislative Chambers.

Published in Ferry

During this winter the number of cancelled ferry sailings operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company have increased for the third consecutive year.

The new figures for the final there months of last year show that 46 sailings on the Douglas-Heysham route were cancelled which is up 45 percent on the previous year. In that year of 2022, there were 29 cancellations and for the year before there were 26.

The Isle of Man government owned ferry operator- puts the increased disruption last year due to an 'unprecedented number of storms', familiarisation with the newbuild flagship Manxman's handling in extreme weather conditions and ongoing training programmes.

Manxman was introduced onto the Douglas-Heysham route in August last year having replaced Ben-My-Chree which had served the main IOM-England link for the past 25 years.  

For more, Manx Radio reports.

Published in Ferry

Ferry operator, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company have put forward several options to resolve an ongoing row over crew contract changes, the firm's boss has said.

Managing Director, Brian Thomson said "different" proposals had been made at discussions with the seafarers’ trade union Nautilus International and the Manx Industrial Relations Service.

Mr. Thomson commented that it was "too early a stage" to discuss details but he was "hopeful" a resolution could be found.

It follows cuts to services as union members work-to-rule.

A rostered officer who had taken compassionate leave, was not replaced as no cover could be found, leading to Douglas-Heysham passenger crossings having to be reduced. This according to the Steam Packet involves one daytime sailing of the newbuild flagship, Manxman each day for a fortnight, which began yesterday as Afloat reported.

The company’s freight-only vessel, MV Arrow will also carry out overnight services for the Manx government-owned ferry firm over the same period on the Isle of Man-England route.

Since the introduction of the £76m Manxman in August, the dispute has deteriorated and centres around the live aboard arrangements for crew on the flagship during rest periods.

More from BBC News on the dispute. 

Published in Ferry

Trade union, Nautilus International has said that industrial action is "increasingly likely" for the ferry crew working for the Isle of Man Steam Packet, as they have criticised the operator’s latest move over 'fire and rehire' of seafarers.

According to ITV News, the Douglas based ferry company have been in dispute with union, since they set out on new working conditions, which would see the crew live on-board, rather than going ashore to their homes after working hours.

In response to the new conditions, Garry Elliot, Head of Governance and Compliance at Nautilus International, called for the Manx government to "condemn the use of fire and rehire tactics".

A statement was issued to ferry workers by the Steam Packet, whose Managing Director, from Brian Thomson, commented: "If agreement to the LOB arrangements cannot be reached, we will need to then consider giving notice to terminate your current employment contract and offer re-engagement on new contracts that incorporate the LOB arrangements as set out in the FAQ.”

At this stage, the crew members have until next Tuesday, 22 December to accept changes to their employment contracts.

More here on the ongoing dispute facing the Manx Government owned ferry company.

Published in Ferry

Ferry operator, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company believed it had been on the brink of agreement with the trade union Nautilus International, over new conditions for its crew, including on board the flagship Manxman introduced in August.

Manxman operates the year-round Douglas-Heysham route, providing an essential passenger and freight service to and from England.

The ferry operator owned by the Isle of Man Government, however claims the union had backed away from the negotiations, ahead of announcing it's to ballot its members over possible industrial action.

The Steam Packet wants its seafarers’ members to live aboard its vessels from 1 January, something officers have rejected.

As Manx Radio  yesterday reported, the Managing Director, Brian Thomson, felt that an end to the dispute had been in sight. Click also here to listen for an audio clip of the M.D.

Afloat adds on the 21 November, The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, issued a statement on its website publishing details of the offer made to the union, Nautilus, to provide further clarity to the public about negotiations regarding 'live-aboard' becoming the norm throughout the company’s fleet.

The statement can be read here.

Published in Ferry

Ferry crew working for the Isle of Man Steam Packet, BBC News reports are to be balloted on whether they would support strike action in a row over employment conditions.

Seafarers who are members of the trade union, Nautilus International will be balloted over plans to impose live on-board conditions on the new flagship Manxman operating Douglas-Heysham. The route is the island’s main year-round link connecting the Manx capital and Lancashire in north-west England.

Nautilus said the changes of having to live-on board the £78m flagship, would see employees lose 76 days a year with friends and family.
In response the Manx Government owned ferry operator said it was disappointed with the latest move.

Proposals from the ferry firm would see crew live on-board the 948 passenger capacity Manxman rather than go home to rest between shifts to and from Heysham for the first time in more than 20 years.

The operator of the 24,161 gross tonnes flagship, also said it would therefore be able to respond more flexibly to travel disruptions and bad weather, which is a claim the union said was "misleading".

More here on the development. 

Published in Ferry

The Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, Alfred Cannan has been quizzed on the 'ethics and morals' of the ferry company's approach.

As ManxRadio reports, allowing the Isle of Man Steam Packet to operate at arm’s length is ‘vital’ – providing it’s operating within the law.

The chief minister has told the Manx Parliament (Tynwald) that there is no reason at this stage to interfere in operations of the ferry company’s business amid an ongoing dispute with a trade union, as Afloat reported previously involves Nautilus International.

At today’s sitting of Tynwald, eleven questions had been tabled on the Steam Packet dispute. 

In August the £78m newbuild flagship, Manxman was introduced on the Douglas-Heysham route. The 948 passenger/237 car capacity ferry currently maintains day-light sailings whereas the former flagship, Ben-My-Chree operates night crossings. 

Politicians have quizzed Cannan, about the involvement of the Council of Ministers in the negotiations and over claims of ‘fire and rehire’ of seafarers.

The southern Manx House of Key (MHK’s) Jason Moorhouse along with Juan Watterson questioned the involvement of government so far. To listen to the MHK’s, click here to a link from the radio station.

Published in Ferry

A trade union has raised worries in keeping ferry workers living on board the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s new flagship, Manxman, as part of proposed new conditions to their employment will affect the local economy and disband communities.

The trade union, Nautilus International which includes representing seafarers working on the £78m Manxman, has spent the last week on the Isle of Man to meet its members and gauge their feelings amid the ongoing dispute.

Nautilus have claimed the seafarers have been threatened with 'fire and rehire' something the Isle of Man Steam Packet has denied.

Speaking to Manx Radio, Senior National Organiser and head of the maritime department at Nautilus, Garry Elliot said they were taken aback by the strength of feeling among members and maintain the Steam Packet is being disingenuous.

Click here for a link to the audio clip of the Nautilus representative.

In August, Manxman made its maiden crossing from Douglas to Heysham, Lancashire in north-west England. The year-round operated route is the main passenger and freight life-line ferry route for islanders. 

Published in Ferry

The ferry operator, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is responding to suggestions that it is doing a “P&O” following last year’s sackings scandal when its workers were illegally dismissed.

As EnergyFM writes, P&O Ferries admitted to breaking the law when without notice, they sacked 800 seafarers on the 17th March, 2022. This was acknowledged by Peter Hebblewaithe, P&O Ferries CEO during a House of Commons Business and Transport Select Committee which was held in March also of last year, a week after the sackings took place in ferryports in the UK and Ireland.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet said it has negotiated with the unions, among them Nautilus International, for over two years and that it made a number of concessions and followed due process throughout.

Arising from the negotiations with the Douglas based operator, this led to one union, which represents about 70% of the sea going staff, to accept to the amended terms and conditions in exchange for a compensation package.

More from the radio station which also outlines a list of the package to workers of the ferry company.

Published in Ferry

Ferry operator Isle of Man Steam Packet Company hopes that the Arrow will take place in its role as a ro-ro freight carrier.

According to the Manx Department of Infrastructure (DoI), it is reviewing a request from the Isle of Man Steam Packet to replace the ropax Ben-my-Chree with the freightferry Arrow as the fleet's back-up vessel.

In the latest director's report, the company (which introduced newbuild Manxman last week) says it's hoping the DoI will agree to amend the Sea Services Agreement for such a move to take place.

The Sea Services Agreement currently requires the Steam Packet retain Ben-my-Chree on the Douglas-Heysem route, be kept as a back-up until the agreement expires in 2045.

Until recently, Ben-My-Chree was the flagship, however the 1998 built ropax was replaced with the £76m newbuild Manannan which entered service with a maiden crossing on the Isle of Man-England route.

Manx Radio has more on the operator's request.

Published in Ferry
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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!