Continued passenger growth has helped drive record turnover at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group.

The Penzance-based company, which provides lifeline air and sea services to the Isles of Scilly, carried 215,624 passengers in the 12 months to March 31, 2018, an increase of nearly 3% on 2017 (209,853,35).

Turnover increased 2.1% from £17.09m to a record £17.46m. Excluding exceptional items, the Group made a profit after tax of £514,736.

Announcing the Group’s annual results, Chairman Andrew May said that Group Chief Operating Officer Stuart Reid would be promoted to the role of acting Managing Director, and he confirmed two new appointments to the Steamship Company board.

The first is Scillonian Stephen Hicks, who was brought up on the islands and had a career in the Merchant Navy before returning to Scilly in 1989, where he has been a boatman ever since. His family has a long and enduring relationship with the islands and the Steamship Group. Steve joined the lifeboat service in 1993 and remains very involved.

Joining him on the Board will be Henk Wiekens, joint managing director of Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth since a management buy-out in 1993.  Henk brings a wealth of ship building experience to the company. He is an engineer, who managed his yacht building companies in Holland and New Zealand for 12 years before joining Pendennis in 1988.

Mr May said: “On behalf of my colleagues, I welcome Steve and Henk to the Steamship Group. They bring considerable maritime experience to the company, and in Steve we have strengthened island-based representation on the Board. I also congratulate Stuart on his promotion, which is well deserved and reflects the huge contribution he makes to the business.”

During the year the group invested £2.2m in its assets, including £1.2 million in the Mali Rose, a larger freight vessel that is due to enter service later this year.

Following a revaluation of the Mali Rose, and a resulting exceptional impairment of £633,447 in the Group’s annual accounts, operating profit fell to -£0.17m compared to £1.52m last time.

Mr May said: “The Company has had another good trading year with a solid underlying performance, continuing passenger growth and record turnover. Although pre exceptional profits were down, this reflects our ongoing investment in our staff and assets to maintain resilience. We have seen further increased staff costs through the introduction of the National Living Wage and auto-enrolment pension obligations.”

Mr May said the Gry Maritha had completed her annual survey during the year and the Scillonian had undergone investment in preparation for her five-year survey in 2019.

“Our cash position remains strong, at almost £5 million, and with a balance sheet of £15 million the company is in its best financial health than at any time in recent decades. We have acknowledged our disappointment that the Mali Rose has not yet entered service but we expect to introduce her on the route later this year subject to completion of the necessary familiarisiation and regulatory processes. The impairment review was a prudent one-off accounting step which we have treated as an exceptional item.”

The company’s shareholders will see a full year dividend of 11p (2017: 12p).