It’s a small island in the Irish Sea with its own jurisdiction, a strong tradition of maritime history – and a ground-breaking and innovative approach to seafarers’ welfare after a difficult year. Close to, but not part of the UK, the IMarEST Isle of Man branch explain what makes it unique.
What makes the Isle of Man so unique?
The Isle of Man is located in the middle of the Irish Sea, 83 miles (133km) from the port of Liverpool and 90 miles from Belfast. It is approximately 32.5 miles (50 kilometres) long, north to south and 13.5 miles wide, east to west. The population is 85,000.
The Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown Dependency and is not part of the United Kingdom. It has its own Parliament, and the Queen is our constitutional head of state.
The island has its own internationally renowned Ship Registry and Ship Management Industry and is an international offshore financial centre, with a low, two-tier tax rate, financial incentives for manufacturing and light industry and an absence of death, wealth or capital gains tax duties.
It is steeped maritime history and innovative technology. The crew of HMS Bounty was mainly from here, and the first purpose-built oil tanker was constructed in the town of Ramsey. The sailing ship Star of India, now in the Maritime Museum in San Diego, was also built at the Ramsey shipyard 150 years ago.
Tell us about the IMarEST Isle of Man branch
The IMarEST branch was created in 1990 and worked closely with the Nautical Institute. In 2003, we formed a joint branch with RINA.
We are small with fewer than 50 members. We hold six technical lectures each year and we’re fortunate that despite COVID-19 lockdowns on the island and the UK, we weren’t affected too much. We have, though, had to create a programme with speakers from the island as our borders are closed.
The branch is run by a committee, comprising at present, eight marine engineers (including a Chief Engineer), and one scientist.
What type of maritime events is the Isle of Man most involved with?
In a normal year, we attend major industry events. So for shipping, that is London International Shipping Week, Nor Shipping, Sea Asia, Sea Japan and Posidonia, whilst on the yachting side it’s the Monaco Yacht Show, Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) and other European events.
Of course, the events calendar has been turned upside down with the pandemic, but we have embraced the switch to digital. Cameron Mitchell (Director) and Toby Brooks (Deputy Director) have spoken at webinars which they might not have been able to attend under normal circumstances.
The Isle of Man is launching a seafarer welfare app very soon which will be exclusively available for those on Manx ships. We hope this will help our seafarers during these uncertain times.
We also try to visit clients, but this has not been possible this year. Fortunately, we have a network of overseas representatives in our key markets to maintain and build relationships.
In a normal year, the IMarEST AGM in London would be a key ‘must attend’ event, of course.
How has the maritime industry been affected by COVID-19?
Since March, the Isle of Man has closed its borders to all except residents and key workers, with strict quarantine procedures for those returning to the island. There is now no COVID-19 circulating and this has been the case for several months, so we’re able to enjoy normal life.
From a seafarer’s perspective, the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating, as we all know. Travel restrictions have prevented crew changes and caused service periods to extend well beyond the 11 months normally permitted by MLC.
We have tried to protect seafarers by requiring shipowners to prepare a ‘repatriation plan’ to show how they will get seafarers home as a priority where they have exceeded the maximum service period.
We have joined the call for governments to recognise seafarers as ‘key workers’ to allow them to safely transit borders when they are not showing signs of COVID-19.
Another challenge has been restrictions on the movement of surveyors who are required to keep the survey and certification records of our ships up to date. This is a space where there has been massive innovation in the last six months, particularly with respect to remote survey and inspection technology.
We’ve supported Class Societies who want to use this technology by witnessing and accrediting remote periodical statutory surveys and audits of Isle of Man ships. We are also at an advanced stage of trialling our own technological solution which will allow us to complete Flag State General Inspections entirely remotely.
Tell us about the innovative steps the Isle of Man is taking to support seafarers in these uncertain times
Exciting news. The Isle of Man is launching a seafarer welfare app very soon which will be exclusively available for those on Manx ships.
We hope this will help our seafarers during these uncertain times. This will be the first such app produced by a flag state, which really underlines our commitment to seafarer welfare.
What are your IMarEST branch plans for next year?
Providing the Isle of Man remains COVID-free, we aim to complete our series of lectures which run to March and plan for next year.
Thanks go to the Isle of Man branch members, including Roy McLean, for compiling this Q&A.