Nautilus has cautiously welcomed a 'definitive agreement' on the purchase of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (IoMSP) by the IoM 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 deal is subject to Tynwald 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 say 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 says 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 says 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.'
Nautilus national ferry organiser Micky Smyth added: 'This should be a positive move, but much will depend on the detail of how the fleet will be operated in future. We will ensure that the terms and conditions of our members serving at sea and ashore will be protected in any new arrangements.'