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The Isle of Man

Sep 12, 2012
Low taxation, narrow roads and a very expensive stretch of water … Deputy Editor David Jordan asked movers on the IoM what it’s like to work there.
The Isle of Man is a self governing British Crown Dependency with its own domestic government, but although it forms part of the British Isles it is not part of the United Kingdom or the European Union. However, the Island’s foreign affairs and defence are the responsibility of the British government.

The island’s low tax economy – the top rate of income tax is 20% -makes it an attractive place to live and work and is no doubt one of the reasons so many wealthy celebrities have made their homes there.  Nigel Mansell, Rick Wakeman, Jeremy Clarkson and the late Robin Gibb are just a few of the famous names who have become residents on the Island. With no capital gains tax, stamp duty or inheritance tax it’s easy to see why. That’s not to say the Isle of Man is not a beautiful island, it is, a fact borne out by the thousands of tourists who flock there every year, bolstered in June by the spectacle of the world famous TT races.

Property prices are above those in most of the mainland with a typical three-bedroom  semi selling for around the same price as those in the more affluent parts of south east England.  As in most places prices have been pretty static during recent years, although there is still a healthy demand for houses in the £2,000,000 + sector.

Edward Bryan Removals Ltd was established in the 1890s and specialises in the upper end of the market. I asked director Nicky Bryan how the recession had affected the business.  “We haven’t really seen a decrease in our business, in fact 2010 was one of our best ever years,” said Nicky.  “When we saw what was happening on the mainland it made us look at ways of working more efficiently and reducing waste, and that’s been good for the business overall.  Most of our clients come to us by recommendation and they’re more interested in the quality of service than the cheapest price.  We are often considerably more expensive than other companies and still get the business. We are members of The Guild and BAR and I think that counts for quite a lot, especially when we’re quoting for corporate business, it also helps us find backloads from the mainland to the Island, which is very useful.”

Getting vehicles across the Irish Sea is an expensive business, the cost of shipping a large removals van from Douglas to Heysham is a whacking £1071 one way! No wonder there is a ready market for backloads from the UK to the Island.  The only crossing is operated by The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company which has been in business since 1830 and is the oldest continually operating passenger ferry in existence.  As a monopoly, there is presumably no pressure on fares, making the Irish Sea one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world. The weather is another problem; the sea can be very rough, especially in winter and sailings often have to be cancelled causing delays and playing havoc with moving schedules. 

Lancaster & Kelly Ltd is another well established Isle of Man removals company which has prospered during the past few years despite the recession.  Director Wil Kelly took over the business from his father at the beginning of 2010 and has increased the size of the fleet from two to 16 vehicles during his two years in charge.  The company has also expanded its document storage operations and will shortly be opening a self storage facility in one of four recently acquired warehouses. “I think it’s important to take risks occasionally and to diversify if you want to stay ahead,” said Wil. “The storage side of the business is expanding rapidly and we’ve also started hiring out our Luton vans at weekends.  Another thing we’ve introduced is a house cleaning service for people we move and that’s proving very popular too.”

Apart from the high cost of getting across the Irish Sea, access can be a problem for those unfamiliar with the Island. “It’s important to do your homework before bringing a large van over,” said Wil. “Some of the roads are very narrow and it’s easy to get caught out if you’re not careful. I’m always willing to supply information about a particular location if a removals company is doing a job over here and doesn’t know the area. We can also help out with porters, packaging materials and anything else they need while they’re over here.”

Callister Removals Ltd has been operating on the Isle of Man since 1958 and is still a family run business. Jackie Callister told me that back in those early days one of their more unusual jobs was to pick up motorbikes that had broken down or crashed on the TT circuit and take them back to the pits.  Over the years they have moved several governors to and from the Island and the company has always enjoyed repeat business from satisfied customers who appreciate their excellent service. “At the moment it is very busy, there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” said Jackie.

One way of reducing shipping costs for moves to the mainland is to use a container service.  I spoke to Gary Griffin who runs Manxport, a removals company that’s been based on the Island since 1995. As well as carrying out domestic removals Manxport specialises in moves to the UK mainland and often uses a container service operated by Mezeron Ltd; a shipping company based in Ramsey in the north of the Island.

“Using a container service means we only have to pay one way and we save on fuel as well,” said Gary. If there is good access Mezeron will drop the container at the address so we only have to unload it at the other end.”  Manxport has also built up a steady trade bringing in goods to the island from major retailers on the mainland such as Ikea and Habitat.  Staff from Manxport travel to the UK and purchase goods on behalf of customers and bring them back to the Island or further afield either by van or container.  “One customer recently spent around £11,000 on kitchens and furniture for some flats he was renovating on the Island and we brought it all over for him.  Another bought furniture for his house in Marbella and we shipped it all out by container, we do a lot of that sort of thing,” said Gary.

There is no doubt that running a removals company on the Island has its challenges, not least being the very expensive stretch of water that separates it from the mainland. However, despite its small size, narrow roads and often inclement weather, the Isle of Man appears to be a good place to do business. A relatively affluent population and low rates of taxation have probably helped to lessen the affects of the recession which has afflicted most other parts of the country.  Add to that the beautiful scenery and the fresh island air and it’s not hard to see why the Isle of Man is so popular.

The Three Legs of Mann

No one really knows how the Three Legs of Mann came to be adopted as the national symbol of the Isle of Man.  The symbol has a long history dating back to pagan times and is said to represent the sun as it passes across the heavens.  This rather fanciful explanation is derived from the theory that it was developed from the design of a spoked wheel representing the rays of the sun and was used in pagan worship. Related symbols are the cross and the fylfot, or four-legged swastika, which originated in India.

The Laxey Wheel

One of the Isle of Man’s most iconic structures, the Laxey Wheel, is the largest water wheel in the world measuring a little over 72 feet in diameter.  The wheel was completed in 1854 and was used to pump water from the Glen Mooar; part of the Great Laxey Mines industrial complex, a feat that it accomplished with ease at an impressive 250 gallons a minute. It was named 'Lady Isabella' after the wife of the then Lieutenant Governor of the Island.

The Laxey Wheel has been one of the IOM’s most popular and impressive tourist attractions for over 150 years.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

The oldest continuously operating passenger ferry company in the world, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has been the Island’s life-line to the UK and Ireland for the last 182 years.

From its headquarters in Douglas, the company operates two ferries – Ben-my-Chree, which operates all year round, and the fastcraft Manannan, which operates from April until October. The ferries service four ports – Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin – with Heysham carrying the bulk of passengers, vehicles and freight. The busiest time of the year is the TT festival when around 35,000 passengers travel to the Island in the space of a fortnight, along with around 11,000 motorcycles.

But it’s not all about the TT – the Steam Packet Company brings visitors to the Island for a range of festivals and events, including the Manx Grand Prix in late August, the Walking Festival which takes place in June, Yn Chruinnaght the Island’s Annual Inter-Celtic festival with guests from the Isle of Man, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany – each July, and indeed the Steam Packet Company-sponsored Southern 100 International Motorcycling Races which also take place in July. Visitors also come from around the British Isles for music festivals, such as The Garden Party at the start of July, and Mannifest which takes place in early August.

The company runs several offers throughout the year for cars, motorcycles and foot passengers. For example, the autumn 2012 vehicle offers start on September 11 and run through until January 10, 2013 – these include a midweek 3-day break for a car plus two passengers from just £65 each way.

More information about all Steam Packet Company offers and the services it operates is available from

For the latest deals on holiday packages to the Island, visit for a wide selection of ideas to cater for all tastes.

Why the Isle of Man ferry is so expensive

By Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward.

Small island community ferry services around the UK suffer from relatively low demand levels but high fixed costs in providing a quality high frequency service. As a consequence, ferry services to the Northern Isles and Scottish islands have been subsidised by the taxpayer by hundreds of millions of pounds, but in contrast, Isle of Man ferry services have no taxpayer subsidies.

Isle of Man charges are regulated by the IOM government and the company is expected to use profitable income periods to offset loss-making winter and off-peak services and the company is expected to provide minimum investment levels, frequencies and capacities.

The agreement with IOM government has ensured that fares have reduced in real terms every year for the past 17 years and comparisons of Isle of Man published freight charges have revealed they compare well with other small islands.

The Isle of Man TT

The Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) held at the beginning in June attracts more than 60,000 visitors to the Island every year. The first race took place in 1907 with those early pioneers of motorcycle racing completing the course at an average speed of around thirty miles an hour. Today top riders in the Senior class average speeds of over 130 mph on the challenging 37.73 mile mountain circuit. 

Unlike short circuit racing the TT takes place on public roads closed during the TT by Act of Tynwald (the IOM government) which makes it impossible for removals men to operate during the festival. Many IOM residents choose to take their holidays during the races rather than face the disruption, while others join in the fun either on track or from the sidelines.

Several top motorcycle riders including the legendary Geoff Duke, and World Superbike champions James Toseland and Neil Hodgson live on the Island.

Container service across the Irish Sea

Mezeron is a small local shipping and logistics company operating regular container services between the Isle of Man, Ireland and the British mainland. The company offers a door-to-door service for removals companies undertaking moves to and from the Isle of Man and provides a viable alternative to shipping large vehicles across the Irish Sea. Mezeron also operates services to many other destinations around the world.

For more information call 01624 812302 or visit

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