The sixth annual National Ferry Fortnight got under way on Saturday, March 15.
Organised by Discover Ferries under the auspices of the UK Chamber of Shipping, it is a celebration of the ferry travel industry from and around the British Isles, which each year serves some 38 million passengers.
To mark the fortnight, Isle of Man Newspapers is speaking to six members of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company team, who are integral to the daily operation of the oldest continually operating passenger shipping company in the world. Today we meet:
Name: Juan Qualtrough
Post: Technical superintendent/sailing chief engineer
Juan can trace his family’s association with the Steam Packet all the way back to the 1800s, and he proudly continues that tradition of helping to maintain the island’s lifeline.
He said: ‘My great uncle was a former superintendent marine engineer and at my grandmother’s funeral in the mid-seventies he asked my father what I was going to do when I left school. My father replied “engineering”, and great uncle Cecil said to leave it with him.
‘Shortly afterwards I had an interview for an apprenticeship, at the old Fort Street workshops, and I was successful, but I had to wait a year to start in October 1977, so I went back to school for a year.
‘Great uncle Cecil’s father, my great, great grandfather George Kenna, was a second engineer/chief engineer in the company from 1883-1914. Great uncle Duncan, Cecil’s brother, was also a chief engineer on the old steam-powered cargo vessel, Conister. Although not fully certificated, he operated the vessel on a dispensation.’
Juan joined the Steam Packet in 1977 as an apprentice and served as a fitter and third engineer over the next decade. In 1987 he moved to shipping company MAERSK to further his career before returning to the Steam Packet in 1999.
Career highlights include obtaining his chief’s ticket in June 2005 and taking up the technical superintendent position in January 2009. As technical superintendent, Juan deals with all technical issues on Ben-my-Chree, including maintenance, ordering spare parts and ensuring the vessel passes its annual safety certificate. He also serves on board both Ben-my-Chree and Manannan as chief engineer for periods of the year.
He relishes the challenges his job presents and is proud of his work.
Juan recalls: ‘One of the most memorable moments was getting the Ben out of dry dock just in time to resume normal service after some major components were delayed.
‘They returned just in time to be fitted and tested so we could get the vessel back into service later that same day.
‘I enjoy helping to maintain a reliable island lifeline service, but also ensuring repairs are carried out to a high standard and approved by Class and Flag administrations.’
As National Ferry Fortnight is marked, Juan said it is the convenience of ferry travel which people enjoy.
He explained: ‘Ferry travel allows passengers to bring their vehicles to reach their destinations, without the use of public transport, there are no restrictions on the amount of luggage, there’s unrestricted movement on board in good weather conditions, and a good selection of food and beverages, as well as a choice of areas to sit, including cabins and lounges.’
Over a 37-year career in shipping, Juan has witnessed many changes.
He explained: ‘When I started in 1977, most of the passenger ferries were steam-powered and quite old. Today they are all diesel-powered. Cargo and freight has changed from craning loose cargo and containers to Ro-Ro.
‘Cars and bikes had to be craned on and off the Mona’s Isle and Manxman at certain states of the tide, now it all rolls on and off via stern doors and linkspans.’