Steamship Company Outlines Investment Plans

Skybus Twin Otters at St Mary’s Airport

There will be an extra aircraft serving the islands and Sunday sailings of the Scillonian III next year.

Those are just two developments outlined by Steamship Company chief executive, Jeff Marston, to members at Thursday’s Transport Committee.

We caught up with Jeff after the meeting to discuss the Steamship Company’s strategy.

Jeff described the measures his company was taking to meet demand following the demise of the helicopter service, and insisted that while they were currently the sole operators on both the air and sea routes, they were not a monopoly and there was no barrier to other carriers entering the market,

He was also open to other operators flying out of Land’s End, as long as they had the ability to pay, and said they’d spoken to several companies recently about a possible helicopter service from the site.

And he reiterated that they received no subsidy for their passenger service and they needed to make enough money to ensure they could invest in new infrastructure in the future.

From Radio Scilly

Jeff Marston talks to Radio Scilly about his company’s plans

He said the company had made significant investment decisions over the past year.

They’ve obtained a fourth Twin Otter aircraft, which is currently in Calgary, Canada, being refitted to meet European specs. They’re also planning to extend the working day of their other three Twin Otters and are taking on a further 10 air crew to fly them.

They’ll be fitting the EGNOS navigation system to all their aircraft, at a cost of £140,000 and installing the necessary equipment at Land’s End. St Mary’s airport is hoping to have this too, as part of their refurbishment project, and it should increase the poor-weather ability of the aircraft.

Steamship Company CEO, Jeff Marston (right) with Chairman Andrew May

Jeff says they intend to start flying three times a day to Exeter in the summer season and this could rise to fives times a day if there’s demand. He said there could be winter flights to that airport next year too, although they’re unlikely to be daily.

Land’s End is being upgraded to a category 3 airport, like St Mary’s, but this means they’ve had to hire and train a further six full time fire officers at a cost of £120,000.

That’s on top of the cost of rebuilding the terminal and control tower there, and improving car-parking facilities.

Jeff said they’ve spent over £2m refurbishing the Scillonian III, the Gry Maritha and the Lyonesse Lady to extend the life of each ship by at least a further five years.

The Scillonian is expected to leave dry dock in Penzance on December 18th and will now meet EU Class B regulations with a licensed capacity for 450 people. That’s lower than the previous UK Class III certificate, which allowed up to 600 passengers to be carried, but placed an extra restriction on sailing in poor weather.

The Scillonian will sail ‘ten or twelve times’ on Sundays during next year’s season although Jeff ruled out winter sailing because of the cost involved. He said last time it ran  in winter they only carried an average of nine passengers per crossing.

Jeff said the Steamship Company is not a public service provider and they don’t have unlimited resources. But he says they are in close dialogue with the Council over their plans and insists nothing has been ruled out.


7 Responses to Steamship Company Outlines Investment Plans

  1. Marian Bennett December 12, 2012 at 5:53 am

    FRIST is certainly supportive of the Steamship Company with the improvements it has made recently in response to both the sudden cessation of the helicopter service and now adverse winter weather conditions which has proved highly disruptive and expensive for both travellers and transport provider. Investment in both the sea and air services is welcomed – FRIST has stated publicly it supports plans to hard surface the runway at Land’s End Airport which will be essential to improve services. FRIST as representative of the largest stakeholder group is useful in this respect. Long term, probably by 2018, Scilly will need a replacement vessel and FRIST, with enormous local and visitor backing, is actively campaigning for government support to secure affordable, regular, reliable lifeline transport links to the mainland.
    FRIST is aware of the gulf between what the Steamship Company can deliver on a commercial basis and what the islands’ community needs for itself and its tourism dependent economy. The problem has been recognized and solved for every comparable island in the UK . The current status quo on the islands does not appear sustainable There is a choice of campaigning for action now by the DfT or waiting to see what happens. The latter carries a lot of risk for the long term survival of the islands’ community and economy.

  2. Colin Carruthers December 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Can someone tell me what FRIST do? Last I heard they were most unhappy with the IOSSCo…

    Is it just a forum for professional moaners?

    The IOSSCo look like they know what they are doing, how about FRIST curb this adolescent sense of entitlement and get behind them?

  3. Peter December 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    After my recent postings, on related topics, expressing pessimism and alarm re the future of tourism in Scilly, I must give credit where it’s due. This is good news and a good start to making the necessary changes for the future of Scilly. Well done to the Steamship Company. I hope their optimism and forward thinking pays off.

  4. Pat December 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Well said Kevin. ..

  5. Kev Wright December 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

    The Steamship company often take a bit of a battering from the public, occasionally it’s justified but often not. And what they’ve outlined here sounds very promising and very proactive. It certainly sounds to me like they’re making some good moves and trying their very best to solve a tricky situation. Well done guys.

    • Cassandra December 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

      I agree.

  6. Cassandra December 8, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Any chance of a change in the rules about transporting pets – is it still the Scillonian or Islander to Land’s End only?