For 100 years the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has provided a lifeline shipping service between Penzance and the islands for passengers and freight.
For 100 years the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group Ltd, has provided a lifeline shipping service between Penzance and the island for passengers and freight.
The current vessel, Scillonian III, was purpose-built for the company in 1977, and had a major refit in 2013. In 1989 the company bought the Gry Maritha freight ship, and she continues to supply the islands to this day.
In 2020 we celebrated our centenary year and started turning our attention to replacing these vessels. The first stage of our consultation process was to survey the islands residence, to hear their views about what sort of marine service they think we should provide in the coming years, and what they would like any new vessels to do.
A unique route
The sea journey to the Isles of Scilly is unique. It requires vessels that can operate in a variety of sea conditions and within the constraints of Penzance Harbour on the mainland and St Mary’s Harbour on the islands.
For example, to run a scheduled service, vessels must be able to sit on the bottom during low tide. That means making sure the ship’s hull is strong enough and that it is not too heavy for the quays to take the weight. The approach to Scilly is not very deep, so ships need to have a shallow draft to get into the harbour, that can mean a rougher ride in poor weather out at sea.
We also must consider what might happen in the future because any new vessels are likely to serve for 20 years. Climate change means that we could see stronger winds with bigger waves, and we are likely to see tighter emissions controls in that timeframe.