Isle of Man News - POSTED Mon 28-04-2014

Steam Packet responds to criticism

by Joanne Clague

Steam Packet responds to criticism - picture

The Steam Packet Company has reacted to reports in the local media and on facebook about a local resident who has criticised what she claims is a 'disablist' attitude.

Jan Jordan spoke out on behalf of her son's girlfriend, a wheelchair user who became trapped in the disabled toilet on board the Ben my Chree.

The Steam Packet has denied her claims that the ferry does not comply with EU requirements and says her complaint is the first received regarding toilet facilities for disabled people since the Ben My Chree started operating 16 years ago. The company said the wheelchair user herself has made no complaint.

Since the incident, it has improved facilities in the disabled toilet but says this action was not as a result of any complaint.

In a statement, the Steam Packet says: 'We have discussed these issues with Mrs Jordan at some length. To date we have received no complaint about the alleged disabled toilet incident involving her relatives in December last year from either of the people who travelled. Neither was the alleged incident reported on-board.

'Contrary to Ms Jordan's assertions, Steam Packet Company vessels comply with all EU requirements and all mandatory maritime requirements...If one of our vessels didn't comply with such requirements, it would not be allowed to operate scheduled passenger services.

'Ms Jordan refers to a white emergency cord, which she claimed did not meet land-based regulations. In fact the red cord, while required on land, is not required by marine regulations. As a proactive and safety-minded operator we carried out a review of the disabled toilet facilities on Ben my Chree at the start of this year and invited a local disabled care expert to view them, who offered us non-mandatory observations on certain improvements which we agreed on and completed within days.

'These improvements included adding additional hand railings, replacing the call cord - changing it from white to red - and tilting the mirror. These improvements were not as a result of Ms Jordan's claim of an incident in December, as we were not aware of her complaint until it was made in April. After she contacted us, we invited Ms Jordan to view the improvements mentioned and she confirmed at the time, only a few weeks ago, that she was happy with the current arrangement.'

The statement goes on to respond to a reference to the lack of an emergency 'exit button' but says the disabled toilet door in question is a fire door, adding: 'The safety of all passengers and crew in the event of an onboard emergency is our paramount concern. This door does swing outwards and is able to be unlocked from outside as per requirements.

'Regarding Ms Jordan's suggestion of redesigning the internal layout of the ship, clearly this would be a major undertaking and is not a feasible option. We are always willing to discuss any issues raised by our customers, and have had much correspondence with Ms Jordan.

However, despite explaining the situation regarding the regulations, and indeed inviting her on board Ben my Chree to view the facilities and the recent changes, she continues to attack the Company through the local media and on social media.'

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