Popular trips to Isle of Man cancelled
Hundreds of passengers have been left disappointed as popular cruises from Whitehaven to the Isle of Man have been cancelled.
The MV Balmoral was due to hold its annual trips from Whitehaven next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
But, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has stopped the trips, which are classed as "international voyages", from going ahead.
A spokesman for White Funnel Ltd, which runs the vessel, said they "are bitterly disappointed and frustrated" and have apologised to passengers for the "inconvenience and disappointment caused by these enforced cancellations".
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency say the vessel is allowed to carry out limited domestic voyages around the UK, but its operators have to apply for an exemption to travel to the Isle of Man, on "international voyages".
A spokesman said: "Having re-assessed the risks involved the Maritime Coastguard Agency is of the opinion that it is no longer appropriate to issue such an exemption to carry passengers on such voyages."
He said the agency makes decisions on requests it receives by looking at "the legal position, the nature of the voyage, the age and condition of the vessel, as well as the safety standards the vessel meets".
"Inevitably there will be times when the agency unfortunately has to decline such requests and operators are encouraged to apply in good time and before making any other commitments. In this case the decision had to be made at short notice and the agency is sorry for any inconvenience caused to passengers, but their safety is our first priority.”
A White Funnel Ltd spokesman said the maritime agency announced earlier this week that sailing with passengers on UK to Isle of Man routes "must not take place with immediate effect".
He said: "We are bitterly disappointed and frustrated by this turn of events, coming at such a late stage and having gone to considerable expense to market our programme of Isle of Man sailings."
"We can only apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment caused by these enforced cancellations. We know that many of our customers from the Whitehaven area have enjoyed our sailings to the Island many times over the years and would like to thank you very much for this support which has been so important in helping to keep Balmoral operating on behalf of her owning charity."
The firm said the Balmoral has operated these special sailings for some 30 years.
It says the coastguard agency gave authority for sailings from the UK to the Isle of Man in 2015 when White Funnel started operations with MV Balmoral and carried this through into 2016. Similar approval had been granted for many years to Balmoral's former operator.
The MV Balmoral was originally built in 1949 and is known for taking people on cruises around the British Coastline.
It is known as one of the last surviving ships of its type. The Motor Vessel Balmoral launched back into active service in June 2015 for day excursions.