Trusty Manannan back in Summer Service

Tue, 11 Apr 2017

We are delighted to report that the new summer season of daily sailings to and from the Isle of Man on the Manannan, the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s high speed catamaran, resumed on 31st March 2017.

It means that, once again, passengers can travel back and forth from the heart of Liverpool to the Island seven days a week – and use the same vessel for crossings to Dublin and Belfast as well.

Since it first came into service in May 2009, the fast craft has carried, and continues to carry, substantial numbers of Isle of Man Events’ clients to and from our shores, whether by motorised transport or on foot.

It takes the Manannan just two and a half hours to reach the Douglas Sea Terminal from the Liverpool Pier Head. 

The convenience of the service is easy to take for granted, so when the opportunity arose for me to participate in this season’s pre-season safety trials I jumped at the chance to see the Manannan’s crew put through their paces.

I was amongst some 200 volunteers who boarded the vessel on a damp and misty morning in Douglas harbour. Having travelled on the vessel many times, it’s easy to become complacent about the way the vessel operates – but this was a chance to see close up just how well-trained the crew are and to appreciate that, first and foremost, they are primarily there for passenger safety and not to serve cups of tea and full English breakfasts! 

At just under 100 metres in length, in her relatively short life, the Manannan has had a fascinating and well travelled history.  Built in Tasmania in 1998 after initial commercial service in Australia and New Zealand, in 2001 she was commissioned by the United States Armed Forces and known as USS Joint Venture (HSV-X1).  

A flight deck was added to accommodate navy helicopters and the vessel was principally used to ferry up to 325 combat personnel and 400 tons of cargo over distances of up to 3,000 nautical miles, at speeds in excess of 40 knots. (a little further than the trip across the Irish Sea!)

In 2003, Joint Venture was assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa, ferrying troops of the Combined Joint Task Force at high speed from one hotspot to another. She also operated as a mobile command centre, working close inshore, and acted as a helicopter carrier.

At the end of her five year commission to the US Military, in 2006 she was handed back to the Australians where she underwent a refit, with the intention of entering service as a car and passenger ferry – but these plans never materialised.

In May 2008, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company announced the purchase of the wave-piercing catamaran for £20 million, as the replacement for the previous fast craft, Snaefell, whereupon she completed the 11,868 mile voyage from Hobart to Portsmouth in 27 days.

A £3 million refit, carried out in Portsmouth provided a new aft accommodation module and the "Sky Lounge".  The heavy military ramp was replaced with a new stern door and the helipad was removed. She arrived in Douglas on 11 May 2009. An open day took place at each of the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s ports and she was renamed after Manannan mac Lir, the Celtic god of the Irish Sea. The vessel made her maiden service voyage as Manannan on the morning sailing from Douglas to Liverpool on Friday 22 May 2009.

During the 2014/15 winter period, she was fitted with a removable mezzanine deck, creating additional motorcycle space – especially useful during the TT and Festival of Motorcycling periods!  Thanks to the extra deck, by late March 2015, the number of motorcycles booked for the TT Festival was up 10% on the previous year.

Powered by four resilient Caterpillar 3618 marine diesel engines and capable of carrying 850 passengers, crew and200 vehicles per sailing, the Manannan is the largest commercial vessel of its kind on the Irish Sea route.

She is in use throughout the summer season, operating daily between Douglas and Liverpool and weekly/twice weekly sailings to Belfast and Dublin. During the winter months Manannan goes on her “holidays”, rested up in Douglas before sailing to Liverpool for a well-deserved annual overhaul.

As we were commandeered around the catamaran’s various muster points, it’s easy to see why passengers warm to the vessels bright and spacious accommodation. There are a variety of seating areas, including two cinema lounges, a large bar area at the stern and well-stocked café.

The enlarged Skylounge on the upper deck, meanwhile, houses the Niarbyl Reserved Lounge, the Manannan Premium Lounge and the Manannan Executive Club.

After what turned out to be a fairly intensive few hours acting as passenger “guinea pigs”, we were informed that the safety procedures had been successfully completed.  

I felt reassured that, in the unlikely event of a full-scale emergency, the Manannan’s friendly but professional crew would be more than capable of ensuring passenger safety.

It was a great to glimpse a bird’s eye view of how the ship operates and, as I write this, the Manannan will have already made numerous trips across the waters that surround our wonderful Isle.

I hope you’ll have the pleasure and opportunity to travel onboard during the coming summer months.

On behalf of us all at Isle of Man Events you can be assured of a very warm welcome when you disembark.


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