Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Ferry disruption 'causing Manx consumer crisis'

Disruption on Isle of Man ferries has caused a "consumer crisis", according to a member of the House of Keys.

Bill Henderson is calling on the Steam Packet Company to supply an extra vessel to help bring in supplies to the island.

The company says sailings have been cancelled due to a combination of adverse weather and technical problems.

Mr Henderson said the situation had affected supermarket stocks and was now threatening urgent medical supplies.

He said: "One haulier is worried he can't guarantee a consignment of medical supplies for the prison and another is getting regular inquiries from the hospital.

"I have never seen a situation like this before - the Isle of Man is gripped in a consumer crisis."

The BBC has been contacted by several members of the public who have been caught up in the disruption.

One man told of problems getting hold of new tyres for his car because of dwindling supplies.

'Crippling the island'

Another woman said her weekend had been ruined by a series of ferry cancellations on Saturday which meant she was unable to attend a Christmas party in Liverpool.

In a recent sailing update the Steam Packet company said that although two sailings went ahead on Tuesday, a third was cancelled.

The early-morning sailing to Heysham on Wednesday has also been cancelled and more disruption is likely throughout the day because of "adverse weather conditions", said the company.

Mr Henderson said he wanted to know why the company had not yet introduced a vessel which could sail in strong gales.

"We need the company to tell us what they are going to do, because they are crippling the island.

"Some members intend to bring this issue up in Tynwald next week as an emergency because it is very, very serious - the government now needs to step in."

'Unusual direction'

Chief executive of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Mark Woodward said: "We are suffering an unusually prolonged period of consistent gale and severe gale force winds at present.

"To make matters worse these winds have been from an unusual direction which makes berthing in Heysham more difficult.

"The lack of a second bow thrust, in conjunction with these other factors, has contributed to the higher than usual level of cancellations we have been suffering.

"However, given the severity of the weather, it is clear that we would have lost some, but not all, of the sailings even if both bow thrust units had been functioning."

"A dry-docking date for the Ben-my-Chree vessel has been reserved for 16, 17 and 18 December in order to refit the second bow thrust unit.

"Manannan is being readied and will be used to provide a passenger service with a single daily crossing to the UK, and will also be used to operate the Dublin sailing on 17 December."

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