Steam Packet sailings are saved by the Navy

Ben-my-Chree in Douglas harbour

Ben-my-Chree in Douglas harbour

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Commercial and leisure craft users are being urged not to dispose of unwanted equipment into the sea or lay fishing gear on known shipping routes.

It comes after fishing gear became entangled on a propeller of the Ben-my-Chree on Sunday.

Changes to the out-of-hours diving cover provided by the Department of Infrastructure meant a dive team was not available to respond until the following day.

It was only because the Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Brocklesby was in the island for Tynwald Day that the Ben’s sailings were not severely hit.

Navy divers recovered a large amount of fishing pot rope, enough to fill a large bin bag.

Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward said: ‘This incident has highlighted our need for out-of-hours diving cover and we will continue our discussions with the DoI over contingency plans the harbours division have previously raised.’

‘On a number of occasions our vessels have been damaged and our sailings delayed or cancelled because of carelessly laid or abandoned equipment and fishing gear.

‘It causes huge inconvenience to our passengers and freight customers, as well as unnecessary repair costs for us.’

Director of harbours Captain Michael Brew said abandoned fishing gear and other equipment presented a ‘hazard to shipping’

He said: ‘It was fortunate on this occasion the vessel was not severely damaged and that the many passengers using the Steam Packet service were not greatly inconvenienced.

‘Once again the department would like to remind the crew of all vessels around the island’s coast, both commercial and leisure, to avoid laying fishing gear in the approaches to harbours or further out to sea on known shipping routes and to ensure equipment is not dumped at sea.’

Out-of-hours cover provided by the department’s diving team was changed in March this year following a consultation, and will generate annual savings of about £35,000.

‘The change reflected the experience of the harbours division over the preceding five years that a dive team on-call was not necessary for normal operational purposes,’ he said.

‘During our consultation, issues which may affect the Steam Packet were raised and we highlighted contingency plans for consideration.

‘We are continuing to discuss these matters with our colleagues at the Steam Packet, most recently at a meeting on Monday.’

In recognition of the help provided by the Navy, passengers made a donation of £1,000 to charities supporting ex-servicemen and women injured in the line of duty, which was matched by the Steam Packet.

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