Passengers hoping to cruise from North Wales to the Isle of Man on board MV Balmoral have been left "disappointed" after the MCA stopped sailings

Sailings between North Wales and the Isle of Man on board the refurbished MV Balmoral have been cancelled.

It comes after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) would not issue an exemption to the vessel’s operator, White Funnel.

The vessel currently has a Passenger Certification for limited domestic voyages around the UK coast.

Sailings to the Isle of Man are considered an international voyage and White Funnel needs an exemption to run the trip, which the MCA has refused to grant.

This has resulted in the cancellation of MV Balmoral’s sailings from Llandudno, Menai Bridge and Whitehaven to the Isle of Man plus local cruises in the Isle of Man scheduled for 21-23 July.

A spokesman for White Funnel said the firm was “bitterly disappointed” by the MCA’s decision.

In a statement, the MCA said passenger safety was its first priority.

“The MV Balmoral currently holds Passenger Certification for limited domestic voyages around the UK coast,” it said.

“White Funnel have recently applied for an exemption to make several voyages to the Isle of Man, which is regarded as an international voyage and is out with its current certification.”

“Having re-assessed the risks involved the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is of the opinion that it is no longer appropriate to issue such an exemption to carry passengers on such voyages.”

“In making judgements on these requests it is necessary to take account of 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.”

“In this case the decision had to be made at short notice and we are sorry for any inconvenience, but passenger safety is our first priority,” concluded the statement.

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On its website, White Funnel said it was “frustrated” by the MCA’s decision.

“MV Balmoral has operated these special sailings for some 30 years. She continues to be welcomed by the Isle of Man Government and carried out a passenger sailing with their agreement around the Island on 5 July this year.”

It stressed that it had previously been granted approval for special sailings to the Isle of Man.

“The regulatory body which issues Balmoral’s UK passenger certification, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, provided specific authority for sailings from the UK to the Isle of Man in 2015 when White Funnel commenced operations with Balmoral and carried this through into 2016.”

“Similar approval had been granted for many years to Balmoral’s former operator. However, yesterday, 10 July 2017, the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency announced, after a brief exchange of correspondence, that sailing with passengers on UK to Isle of Man routes must not take place with immediate effect thus preventing operating these sailings.”

“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,” added the company.

White Funnel said the remainder of MV Balmoral’s 2017 programme would be unaffected.

It will return to the North West and North Wales to operate as scheduled from Llandudno, Menai Bridge and Liverpool on coastal excursions later in July and again in September.

“We can only apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment caused by these enforced cancellations,” said White Funnel.

“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,” it added.