A former government Minister believes the Steam Packet should have done more to help passengers caught up in recent disruption to fast craft services.
David Cretney, who was previously Infrastructure Minister, has been invited to meet the Packet’s chief executive Mark Woodward to discuss his concerns over the Manannan’s reliability.
The MHK’s daughter Julie, 24, was returning from the Leeds Festival on August 25 and was one of hundreds kept waiting on board for four hours in Liverpool while engineers tried to fix an engine fault – only for the service to be cancelled.
Julie then had to set off at 12.30am for Heysham to catch the delayed early morning sailing of the Ben-my-Chree. Other passengers stranded in Liverpool were found hotel rooms but some had to bed down on a conference room floor.
Mr Cretney, now member for Economic Development with responsibility for motorsport, said: ‘This is not about my daughter – she just happened to be involved.
‘A number of parents have contacted me. A lot are disappointed with the service they received. The Steam Packet said they did all they could but I think they could have done better. They have invited me to meet them next week but I’ve asked if I can bring along some ferry customers.’
He said parents of festival-goers tried to contact the Steam Packet for updates that night but had not been able to get through.
‘Although there were announcements on board, the announcement to go to Heysham came very late in the night,’ he said.
Mr Cretney asked why the freight vessel MV Arrow was not available as a contingency. It was brought in on long-term charter in April with the aim of supplementing the Ben-my-Chree and Manannan at times of peak demand to allow extra capacity for passengers. But it has now been sub-chartered for three months.
Steam Packet boss Mr Woodword last week blamed the ‘atrocious’ behaviour of some passengers for calling police in Liverpool.
But Mr Cretney questioned whether that description is warranted – given that police made no arrests.
The Steam Packet says police were called to ensure the safety of passengers and employees, claiming shore staff were assaulted and verbally abused and fixtures and fittings in the toilets and departure lounge were damaged.
Mr Cretney’s other daughter was on the Manannan sailing that took five hours to cross to Douglas as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha swept across the Irish Sea.
Many of the 500 passengers on board were left anxious and seasick and a number of vehicles were damaged. But Steam Packet bosses defended the decision to allow the Manannan to sail – insisting it was operating well within its safety limits.