Steam Packet says it’s coping despite ‘desperate’ weather

Ben my Chree  leaves Douglas in gale force winds.

Ben my Chree leaves Douglas in gale force winds.

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Isle of Man Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward has described the latest run of bad weather as ‘pretty desperate’, but says they have been coping.

Severe gale force winds have disrupted numerous sailings of the Ben-my-Chree and led to it needing repair.

Mr Woodward said: ‘Since it’s been bad the Met Office has said there’s been 22 days since December that have been of a gale force eight or more.

‘Of those, 14 of those days have been a severe gale force of nine, ten or eleven.

‘So obviously we have lost a number of sailings, I can’t remember weather nearly as a bad since 1969.

‘One of the other effects of it all has been the Ben-my-Chree being scheduled to undergo repair as you know.’

Asked about any passenger and freight rescheduling problems Mr Woodward said: ‘With regards to rescheduling passengers, thankfully numbers have been light recently, and we have brought the Manannan out when possible to help, so most people have been able to travel to their scheduled location.

‘Of course the real issue has been freight, but we’ve been working closely with hauliers and major freight suppliers to get goods onto the island ahead of time.

‘We have committed to leasing the freighter MV Arrow from Seatruck and this will come into effect in April.

‘If we could have had it sooner we would have.’

Senior Met officer Adrian Cowin said: ‘I would say this weather is the sort of thing you’d expect to see about once every ten years. It’s one of these natural variations that happens every decade.

‘I’ve seen it said that it’s the most disturbed period of weather for 20 years, but we’ve not categorised it like some places in the UK have tried to do and say it’s the worst storms ever or for so many years, we haven’t sat down to do an exercise like that.

‘I can remember something similar in 1997. You do get these spells in December, a whole unsettled deep low situation.

‘It’s caused by a very strong jetstream over the North Atlantic, you get deep areas of low pressure but there are more of them and they are deeper than usual.’

Asked if there was any more bad weather ahead Mr Cowin was upbeat: ‘There’s no sign of more to come at this stage thankfully.

‘Certainly for the next week or so there’s nothing like it ahead.

‘Obviously overall it has been an unsettled spell of a number of weeks but we do see that on occasions.’

As the Courier and reported last week, the Ben-my-Chree will be out of action for two short periods in the coming weeks to undergo repair to a damaged stabilising fin. The fin was damaged due to a prolonged period of use in heavy weather.

Provisional dates for the repairs to the ship have been set as January 17 to 20 (Friday to Monday) and February 8 to 10 (Saturday to Monday).

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