Candela P12
Candela P12

Currently, the Isle of Man Government prohibits people from operating an alternative ferry service from Douglas to across. This puts the people of Mann at risk of one point of failure: if that operation fails, then we have very limited backup and redundancy. It is very plausible, in the wake of a global pandemic, to some sort of disruption which prevents the Isle of Man Steam Packet from operating. This might be another human-borne virus, or it might be something else – such as computer, fuel or other service disruption.

Periodically, when I highlight the risks posed to the Isle of Man by having so many of our transport eggs in one basket, various folks point to a failed shipping company from around 40 years ago (!!!). People bizarrely claim that competing services won’t work, while also claiming that competing services need to be banned – you would think only one or the other could possibly be true. Obviously, if something is not possible, it does not need to be banned.

The fact that a company failed around 40 years ago should not prevent all people from all of the future from trying different options to better serve and protect the interests of the people of the Isle of Man.

For example, in Sweden, new passenger ferries are beginning to operate over (for now) much shorter distances with much smaller sizes. It is plausible that new technologies will make new styles of boat viable in coming years, and add further reasoning to improve our resilience and redundancy as an island.

On the new Swedish operation, Bloomberg reports:

The world’s speediest electric passenger ferry is on its way to Stockholm and could make commuting along its waterways just as fast as driving — but greener. The Candela P-12, which will start serving a passenger route in 2023, can cover 50 miles (80 kilometers) on a single charge. Its battery takes just one hour to recharge.

The trial service could make Stockholm, with 900,000 daily ferry passengers, a world leader in public transit by electric boat, and could help usher in a new sustainable form of mass transit in other cities. While electric ferries are unlikely to rival trains or buses, they could become an additional tool for reducing transportation emissions, writes Feargus O’Sullivan. 

8 July Update: Some people took issue with my phrase “a failed shipping company from around 40 years ago”. It might be better to have described it as “a failure to have two sustainable competitors from around 40 years ago”. Either way, a reasonable, but brief, summary of the events of the early 1980s is available on Wikipedia. I understand the book “Manxline” by Stan Basnett goes into greater detail on the events.