The launch of a rival shipping line has been delayed – as talks continue on buying a ship.
And it has emerged that Ellan Vannin Line has yet to secure berths at Douglas or Heysham.
But Captain Kurt Buchholz, the man behind the shipping line, is confident that the daily roll-on, roll off container freight service orginally planned to launch in October will go ahead – but not now until possibly before the end of the year or in the spring.
He told the Examiner: ‘We don’t have a start date. We are trying to negotiate to get a ship before the end of the year.
‘The expectation of people is still October. But I would assume it will now be later. It could be the first quarter of next year. I can’t give a definite time. It is disappointing.’
Captain Buchholz explained that the hold-up was the result of negotiations continuing with the current owner of the proposed container ship, who is not in a position to sell until a new ship has been acquired.
Ellan Vannin Line has released a picture of the 100m long ro-ro container vessel it intends to purchase for the daily freight service – see page 3.
A passenger service is also under consideration.
Meanwhile, director of ports Ann Reynolds has confirmed no berth has yet been secured at Douglas.
She said: ‘The Ports Division is still undertaking exploratory talks with EVL regarding starting a potential new freight service to Heysham. No berth has been secured as yet but berths are available.’
A spokesman for Peel Ports said: ‘The owners of the Ellan Vannin Line made an initial approach to the Port of Heysham some time ago but no agreement or contract was entered into.’
Captain Buccholz said he had applied for berths at both Douglas and Heysham and while no formal agreements are in place, it had been confirmed that berths at both ports were available. ‘We don’t have to sign anything – we just have to put in an application. We’ve put in a schedule. We’ve sent the same application to Heysham where berth no.2 is available. There’s no formal agreement.’
However, he said that Ms Reynolds had told him in writing that Ellan Vannin Line would have to pay for additional lighting at Douglas port and make good damage previously caused to a berth. Captain Buccholz said he wiil refuse to pay for any damage caused by another operator.
The proposed freight service will depart daily from Douglas at 10am, arriving at Heysham at 2pm from where it will return at 7pm, arriving back in the island at 11pm.
Up to 40 trailers, or up to 110 containers if there are no trailers on the main deck, could be carried on board the proposed ship.
Douglas port closes between 10pm and 6am but the Ellan Vannin Line boss says the plan is to discharge and load overnight but not take any cargo in or out of the port itself. Loading at Heysham will be via the stern ramp but a side ramp will be used at Douglas which would rely on a certain height of tide.
Defiant Steam Packet bosses insist they will fight off any new threat of competition on the island’s sea services.
Chairman Robert Quayle has vowed: ‘We will meet competition with competition.’
The Steam Packet announced it has significantly cut its debt just hours before Ellan Vannin Line held a public meeting in July at Noble’s Park Pavilion to outline its plans for the new daily cargo service to Heysham.