Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shuffle at Economic development

The Department of Economic Development announces new political delegations

FOLLOWING the appointment of Tony Wild MLC as a political member for the Department of Economic Development, Minister John Shimmin MHK has announced a number of changes to the delegated responsibilities within his Department.

Tony Wild MLC will lead the Employment and Skills Group and the Information Systems Division (ISD).  Employment and Skills Group’s responsibilities include areas such as Training Services, the Job Centre, the Careers Service and Work Permits. ISD provides a complete range of information technology services to all Government Departments from high level strategy through to system procurement, operations and support.

Laurence Skelly MHK will oversee part of the Department’s Business Development portfolio including e-business, information and communication technology, manufacturing, retail, film and media and attracting and assisting high value individuals.  He is also responsible for energy policy; clean technology and biotechnology; construction; mines and minerals and the Department’s properties. Laurence is a Past President of NAMA.

Alex Downie OBE, MLC, in addition to his existing Departmental responsibilities which include Space and the Ship and Aircraft registers, is also now responsible for E-gaming. 

Geoff Corkish MBE, MHK remains the member responsible for Tourism, TT and Motorsport.  He also liaises with the Isle of Man Post Office on behalf of the Department (of which in a separate capacity he is also Chairman).

Alan Crowe MLC remains the member responsible for Financial Services and the Companies Registry.

Minister Shimmin commented:

‘As the Department of Economic Development builds for the future, my political colleagues and I aim to deliver outstanding services in all areas of responsibility and welcome new opportunities in 2012.  We recognise that challenges exist at every turn but with the dedication of our management and staff we will endeavour to rise to the challenge.’

Monday, January 30, 2012

Manx State of the Nation

Chief Minister Allan Bell's comments came during his address at the ‘Manx State of the Nation’ conference on Friday, which was organised by the Alliance of Isle of Man Compliance Professionals.
He warned against dwelling on the achievements seen in the past, but told his audience to focus on new ways to protect the island’s future.
‘As the storm clouds continue to gather around us in Europe and beyond, it is vital that we develop new strategies to protect our future and do not dwell on past success.
‘If we lose focus on the needs of the economy in the time ahead, either through complacency or through the distraction of our fiscal challenges, then we risk endangering our impressive achievements of the last 25 years,’ he said.
The audience heard that the island had solid foundations to build upon, with no external borrowing, an unemployment rate below 2.5 per cent, strong reserves, and continued economic growth despite ongoing turbulence in international markets.
Mr Bell said the performance of the island’s economy was in no small measure down to the confidence and enterprise of its private sector.
He told local business leaders at the address: ‘I would like to offer my personal, and sincere, gratitude for your hard work, support and partnership as it plays such a crucial part in terms of our continued progress as a world-class international business centre.
‘My ministerial colleagues and I recognise that your outstanding contribution has enabled the Isle of Man to cement its place as a well-regulated and responsible nation, with a high quality corporate offering.’
He said: ‘Our regulatory systems, while observing the continuing need to adhere to international best practice, must also be designed to encourage new commercial opportunities, especially in the face of ever growing competition.
‘The emergence of a more independent Scotland on our doorstep is a good example and one we must watch very carefully.’
The conference heard that next month’s Budget would highlight the challenging targets that had to be met in order to protect the Isle of Man’s core services and maintain a vibrant economy.
Mr Bell said: ‘There is one vital message that must never be forgotten. Without a strong and sustainable economy, delivering a strong and sustainable fiscal base, the political independence of the Isle of Man will always be vulnerable to external pressure.’
As a Manxman, Mr Bell added he was proud of what the people of the island had achieved over the last 25 years.
‘We have fought long and hard to rebuild our economy and our public finances, and to defend and grow our political independence.
‘I can promise you today that as long as I remain Chief Minister I will do everything in my power to protect those achievements and your futures,’ he added.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Long to reign over us! Happy and glorious stamps from IOM Post

The Isle of Man Post Office is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (Lord of Mann) with the release of six stamps bearing various portraits of the Queen, followed by the issue of a Diamond Jubilee Miniature Sheet on the Queen’s birthday on the 21st April, 2012.

Each stamp focuses on different aspects of her life, beginning with a film premiere as a young woman in 1955 and ending with a more recent representation taken whilst watching the Derby at Epsom Racecourse in 2008.

Included in the package are selected extracts from some of the Queen’s Christmas messages broadcast annually to both the nation and the Commonwealth.

Valerie Caine © January 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chico & Rita (again)

Manx illustrator Juan Moore, who spent 18 months working on the animation Chico and Rita, has described its Oscar nomination as "mind blowing".
Mr Moore said he found out when he received an email from the film's production manager Daryl Shute.
During its production Mr Moore was one of 10 animators from the Isle of Man who were employed on the film.  Some of his work can be seen here.
Chico and Rita is up against four other films: A Cat in Paris, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots and Rango.


CRYSTAL SERENTIY, the largest cruise vessel ever to grace Douglas Bay.

THE Isle of Man is set to welcome no less than 14 cruise calls this year with a further nine calls already booked for 2013, providing a welcome economic boost to the local economy.   Of the current total, 13 vessels will be making an inaugural visit including the magnificent 68,870 ton CRYSTAL SERENTIY, the largest cruise vessel ever to grace Douglas Bay.

A further distinctive caller is one of the world’s largest sail-cruisers. With five huge masts and the sails controlled by computer from the bridge of the vessel, the WIND SURF will present a distinctive sight during the two calls it is scheduled to make in 2013. This vessel accommodates 327 passengers along with 163 crew members.

The AZAMARA QUEST, which is due to call at Douglas on July 13th in 2013, currently has a unique Isle of Man connection as the Master of the vessel, Captain Carl Smith is from Peel. It is anticipated he will be on board for the Isle of Man call which could then be promoted to the Cruise Lines repeat passenger base as ‘Captain Carl’s Homecoming Cruise!’.

Silversea Cruises have scheduled two of their vessels to incorporate the Isle of Man within itineraries this year.  They are the SILVER CLOUD, which has been a fairly frequent caller to our shores in the past, and the SILVER EXPLORER which is the company’s recently acquired ‘Expedition’ vessel and will be visiting the Island for the first time.

Other distinctive inaugural callers in 2012 include the SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER. This Berlitz Guide rated luxury/premium class vessel is also scheduled to visit Douglas again the following year. The list continues with the THOMSON SPIRIT due to call on September 5th, a vessel with a 1,250 passenger capability.

Cruise visits 2012:
Quest for Adventure           8th May
Arion                                26th May
Discovery                         28th May
Silver Explorer                    31st May
Marco Polo                        4th June
Ocean Countess                 5th June
Seven Seas Voyager           7th June
Silver Cloud                       8th June
Saga Sapphire                   4th July
Quest for Adventure           9th July
Marco Polo                       16th July
Deutschland                      20th July
Hebridean Princess             21st August
Thomson Spirit                  6th September

Cruise visits planned so far for 2013:
Seven Seas Voyager           6th June
Nautica                             29th June
Azamara Quest                  13th July
Wind Surf                         21st July
Columbus 2                       19th August
Pacific Star Princess            20th August
Crystal Serenity                  25th August
Wind Surf                         30th August  
Seabourn Pride                 13th September

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Manx-funded film gets Oscar nomination

CinemaNX co-financed Chico & Rita and distributed the film in the UK in November 2010 to outstanding critical acclaim.
The nomination marks the culmination of the film’s award success, following a number of accolades including the Best Animated Film at the 2011 European Film Awards and a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 2011 Annie Awards (ASIFA – Hollywood).
Chico & Rita is directed by Oscar®-winning director Fernando Trueba (La Belle Epoque) and world famous designer Javier Mariscal, alongside Tono Errando.
Steve Christian, Chairman of CinemaNX said: ‘We’re absolutely thrilled that this labour of love has been recognised and congratulate the directors Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando as well as the producers Martin Pope and Michael Rose.’
Economic Devlopment Minister John Shimmin MHK said: ‘This project has been a labour of love for Isle of Man Film and CinemaNX for some considerable time. Over a period of 16 months, 10 young Manx artists were fully trained in the art of colouring the feature so the Isle of Man contribution to the overall project is considerable.‘It has certainly enhanced the Island’s position in the overall global film industry.”
The film opens in the U.S.  in February, in New YOrk. Hopefully it will go national soon afterwards. 
The Oscars ceremony is on February 26.

Isle of Man queenies up for sustainable seafood award


Isle of Man Fisheries are through to the final round of the UK Sustainable Seafood Awards to be held in London.
Manx queen scallops are among six products from all over the world competing at the event at Billingsgate Market on 27 January.
The awards are designed to promote sustainable practice across the seafood industry and conserve fish stocks.
Director of Fisheries Andy Read said: "It's a chance to showcase our queenies to the world and secure new markets.
"We have significantly reduced the impact of the fishery on the marine environment and deserve recognition for that," he added.
Director of Fisheries Andy Read on how 
fishermen benefit from marine conservation

Replenish stocks
Over the last decade Manx fisherman have worked alongside the government to balance commercial needs and the need to protect the marine environment.

Fisherman now use light mesh trawls instead of dredging the sea bed, while juvenile queenies are thrown back into the sea and protected.
Plans to make a stretch of the Isle of Man's coastline into a Marine Conservation Zone were welcomed by local fisherman.
Ramsey Harbour by David Kneale
Ramsey Bay has been proposed as a no fishing zone

Under the proposal an area off Ramsey Bay would be closed to scallop dredging and queenie trawling to help replenish fisheries.
Billy Caley, Director of Isle of Man Seafoods, says fisherman are starting to feel the benefits of conservation.
Destructive fishing
"We're seeing more queenies than we've ever seen in our lives.
"Instead of having to fish the grounds for 12 to 14 hours a day like we did a few years ago, we catch the same size of catches in six hours. We do have a genuine sustainable fishery," Caley added.
Global consumption of seafood doubled between 1970 and 2000.
In turn the sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum in recent years as awareness about overfishing and environmentally-destructive fishing methods has grown.
The Sustainable Seafood Awards were set up four years ago to recognise fisheries who practice responsible marine management.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Who Wants to See the White Boys Act?

Compiled and edited by Manx cultural field worker Stephen Miller, this compendium of sources focusses purely on the activities of the locally named ‘White Boys’. They were generally groups of young boys who emerged onto the streets during the festive season with a Manx form of the Mummers’ Play, although this in itself was not exclusive to the Isle of Man.

Traditionally a male preserve, the ‘White Boys’ wore distinctive costume, which gave them their name, and performed a light-hearted version of the Legend of St George. Recognised as an Island tradition since the early nineteenth century, the play involved six swordsmen and the ever-present doctor with his mysterious rejuvenating medicine. Joseph Train in his 1845 historical account of the Isle of Man described it as a ‘rude drama’.

Undoubtedly a specialised area of study, it is a compilation of source material rather than a bibliographical listing of references, which fits aptly under the banner of Traditional Drama Research.

As Manx traditions ebb and flow this fine body of work will serve as a valuable document, including first-hand accounts and much historical data currently in the care of Manx National Heritage.

This book has been an extensive project, and although much of the subject has been covered here, Stephen Miller hopes that his efforts will encourage others to undertake further research.

The book is available at the Manx Museum priced £20, but for further information contact http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~stephen/whiteboys/

Valerie Caine © January 2012 (Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Fascinating article from Click Green on Manx gamble looking set to pay off

Click Green by Stuart Qualtrough at  http://tinyurl.com/7vag785

The Isle of Man is looking to cash in on an ambitious renewable energy programme following a remarkable decision to surrender its share of the UK's oil and gas revenues.

The Manx Government wants to harness the green potential of the island's unique position to attract a new era of clean energy generation and export 10 times as much low-carbon electricity to the UK as the entire island consumes in a year.

And a decision 20 years ago to surrender its share of UK's fossil fuel revenues in return for its territorial waters looks like a multi-million pound wager that is destined to pay off.

A gamble that may have appeared madness at the height of the scramble for oil and gas now looks a remarkable crystal-ball policy call as the independent crown dependency prepares to lease off small areas of its seabed for massive returns.

The agreement in July 1991 ended a 25-year deal that saw the Manx Exchequer receive a share of the royalties and rentals from oil and gas exploration from the whole of the UK continental shelf. The Isle of Man had previously agreed to shrink its territorial waters from 12 to three nautical miles and give up any interest it had in oil and gas exploration and production in the Morecambe Bay area.

With the reversal of the 1966 accord, the island now controls around 4,000 square kilometres of territorial waters, which the drive to low-carbon, sustainable power generation has boosted in value to an estimated £8 million per square kilometre over 25 years .

An environmental report to be completed in April may suggest the Isle of Man currently has the capacity to utilise several hundred square kilometres of seabed, which still has the potential to provide a huge return on investment.

A state-of-the-art 80MW gas turbine power plant alongside a 10MW waste-to-energy facility already enables the island to be a net exporter of electricity to the mainland.

But with shallow waters, strong currents and no shortage of wind, the island's renewable capacity appears perfect for the installation of tidal, wave and offshore wind installations.

And with zero corporation tax and a swift planning decision-making process, the island will may soon be looking to lease areas of suitable seabed to energy companies to generate and sell on to the mainland.

The infrastructure is already in place to transmit electricity to the UK and a sub-sea interconnector to the coast of Blackpool hooks directly into the National Grid.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment report is expected to be completed this spring, which will then signal the move to attract offshore wind generators as well as marine energy pioneers.

The Isle of Man has been a test-bed for many technical innovations and roll-outs. The 3G mobile network was first introduced on the island before it was rolled out across the UK.

And the world-famous TT motorbike festival is already going green following the introduction of the TT-zero event for electric-powered motorbikes – this year will likely see the landmark record of a 100mph average circuit speed achieved by an electric model.

“More than 87% of the Isle of Man territory is offshore,” said Dr Ken Milne, senior manager for energy policy at the Isle of Man Government. “We have the capacity and the capability to be generating thousands of megawatts of renewable energy to feed into the UK National Grid.

“Our territorial waters are the equivalent of Rounds 1 and 2 of the Crown Estate leasing programme for offshore wind farms – most of our water is shallow and we have perfect wind conditions.

“Our close proximity to the UK allows a more cost effective interconnection than many other new offshore wind farms around the UK coast and we have the precision manufacturing supply chain already in place on the island.

“By 2015, we aim to produce 15% of our electricity needs from renewable sources and by 2020 we may be able to supply 10 times as much low-carbon electricity to the UK as the entire island electricity consumption in a year .

“The island is well set up for the trial and research of low-carbon technology, we have manufacturing companies on the island that specialise in the aerospace industry supplying Boeing and Airbus and the optics for the Mars Explorer mission were manufactured on the Isle of Man.

“We are a signatory of the same intellectual property rights treaties as the UK and the rest of Europe, which means all royalties and revenues from IP is zero-rated for tax.”

The island is also working on developing smart grid technology and is perfectly positioned in the middle of the Irish Sea to connect Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, which could create the blueprint of a much larger, pan-European smart grid model.

Dr Milne added: “We are investigating opportunities to become a major net exporter of renewable energy and we have the capacity, skills and infrastructure to achieve it.

“We are looking at other countries such as Scotland for offshore renewables and Singapore for smart grid technology to see how the Isle of Man can best support the role of these low-carbon technologies.

“The island's peak demand for electricity is 90MW so everything we can generate above this and our base load of 40MW can be exported straight to the UK.

“Our energy-to-waste plant already enables the island to divert 100% of domestic waste from landfill – the next big opportunity to help reduce our carbon footprint is from the renewable energy produced from our territorial waters.”

Finlo and the Fairy Kings

Written by Ruth Blindell (it only took her seven years!),  a teacher at the Manx language school on the Isle of Man (Bunscoill Ghaelgagh) this is a bi-lingual book  in Manx and English. It went live on-line for purchase today. A portion of the sales made in the first month will go to school funds. Finlo and the Fairy Kings has lines of Manx music and songs in the book that help to tell the story. It's 216 pages long and aimed at 10-14 year olds or adults with an interest in Manx traditions, language, songs and music. 

Is Finlo just dreaming or are there really fairies loose in the Dhoon Glen? Who are the Fairy Kings and the Mooinjer Veggey? Join Finlo on a Manx adventure with a sprinkling of fairy dust, Manx Gaelic, traditional music and a few local songs in Manx and English. Follow his father – the Right Honourable Mr Cowin – along with a couple of ghosts and the Little People as they battle to save the magical glen from the destructive plans of the Right Honourable Mr Pratt, a cliff full of seagulls and a squadron of ruthless R-A-Ts.

For sale now through authorhouse.com - e-book £2.55 - a real paper one £7.50

YouTube sensation from Ballaugh

Over the past year Ramsey Grammar School student Erika, 19, has risen to mini-stardom thanks to YouTube videos of her covering popular hits with just her voice and a 41-string harp.
It was moving to Ballaugh that sparked the first of them, a take on Owl City’s Fireflies. What was it about her new home that inspired her?
‘I didn’t know the area, and I was bored!’ laughs Erika. ‘I wanted to do something different.’
That video has now been viewed more than 20,000 times, and has been joined by 21 others, as Erika has covered acts from Florence and the Machine to Flo Rida.
‘It’s not as common as guitar covers, for instance, and the feedback has been generally really supportive and spurred me on,’ she explains.