No additional vessel available during the Isle of Man TT races
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (IOMSPCo) have announced that they are currently set to offer fewer sailings to the Isle of Man during next years TT racing season. This is due to P&O's decision not to extend the charter of their fast craft Express, as reported earlier this month. In recent years IOMSPCo have sub-chartered Express from P&O to provide additional sailings to the Isle of Man during this peak period, departing to Douglas from P&O's Larne port rather than the regular IOMSPCo port of Belfast. This news comes on the back of an announcement that visitor numbers arriving by ferry during the races where at their highest since 2007 this year.
IOMSPCo however have said that they have approached several companies with a view to chartering vessels over the TT period, but so-far no vessels appear to be available.
On the IOMSPCo website, Chief Executive, Clive Woodward is quoted saying:
'Fast craft are expensive to operate and maintain so we are not surprised that P&O has decided to return the craft. Realistically, there simply aren’t many owners who are prepared to make their vessels available for just two or three weeks charter, and commit to that a year in advance. The search for vessels is further restricted because of the size constraints necessary for vessels which can operate within the limitations of the harbours we service.'
'We will keep looking for a replacement charter and have already approached several companies. None at present has indicated a willingness to release vessels to us but we will keep trying. As things stand it appears highly unlikely a suitable replacement will be available and our published schedule for TT2016 assumes we will use our existing resources.’
It is expected that additional sailings to Belfast may be provided next year by the Steam Packet's own fast craft Manannan, and/or the ro-pax ferry Ben-My-Chree. However this would be at the expense of sailings to Liverpool and Heysham. Mr Woodward stated that Express only carried 700 out of 14,000 motorcycles visiting the Isle of Man during this years TT.