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Isle of Man Steam Packet taken into public ownership in ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity

Tue 15 May 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Isle of Man Steam Packet taken into public ownership in ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is to be taken into public ownership

Isle of Man ferry operator Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (IoMSP) has been taken into public ownership.

Trade Union Nautilus has cautiously welcomed a ‘definitive agreement’ on the purchase of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company by the Isle of Man Government.

Described by ministers as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take strategic control of the island’s sea services on behalf of the nation”, the £124M (US$168M) deal is subject to Tynwald (Isle of Man parliament) approval.

The move is being made after extensive assessment of potential operating models and analysis of the island’s current and future requirements, including port facilities and vessels, routes, seasonal demands, additional capacity for the TT period and financial issues.

Ministers said the government’s move to take a controlling interest in the island’s ferry services and assets is considered to be the best way to support the needs of local people and the economy, and it will bring stability to the ownership of the island’s lifeline ferry operations.

Although the deal will bring the ferry operations into public ownership, the government said it will not take charge of the day-to-day running of the services – with the business to be run “at arm’s length from government”, with options to be considered after the sale is completed.

If the deal is approved by the Tynwald, the government will aim to put a new strategic sea services agreement into place within the next 12 months. It said current IoMSP management and staff will continue to run the passenger and freight operations to ensure a smooth transition during the takeover.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented “We welcome this development in principle, as this is a lifeline ferry service that should not be left to the vagaries of an unregulated market. However, the devil will be in the detail of the services agreement and what may come in terms of tendering that the government will presumably put in place.”

Elsewhere, Steam Packet union RMT said that it welcomed this decision by the Isle of Man Government. The IoMSP is currently owned by Portuguese financiers Banco Espirito Santo.

RMT national secretary, Steve Todd said “This is good news for our Steam Packet members and for the public ownership model in the passenger ferry industry. We have been in regular contact with the Manx Government over the future of the Steam Packet and this was one of the best options on the table, although we will need to nail down the terms of the transfer to ensure that terms and conditions, including pensions of our members, are not adversely affected.

“We also need to secure commitment around the training of the next generation of Manx and UK seafarers who will deliver the Isle of Man Steam Packet services for islanders and visitors for the decades to come, on new vessels.”

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