HSC Manannan is a 96-metre wave-piercing high-speed catamaran car ferry built in Tasmania in 1998. She served in Australia and New Zealand for five years and is now owned and operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company – the oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company in the world – providing seasonal service between Douglas and Liverpool. But between 2001 and 2006 she served a more lethal role under the code name HSV-X1.
For that five year period she served the Navy as the USS Joint Venture. A flight deck was added to accommodate various helicopters in the US Navy arsenal and was configured to be rapidly re-configurable. She could perform a variety of missions, principal among them the ability to ferry up to 325 combat personnel and 400 tons of cargo up to 3,000 nautical miles one way at speeds in excess of 40 knots.
In 2003, Joint Venture was assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa. She operated as a fast transport in support of the Combined Joint Task Force and performed a variety of tasks transporting and supplying troops at high speed over long distances. She also operated a mobile command centre, working close inshore, and operating as a helicopter carrier.
At the end of the five year charter, she was handed back to Incat in early 2006 and has since been replaced by the U.S. Navy’s JHSV-1 . She underwent a refit and was painted in the livery of Express Ferries.
Manannan is currently the largest vessel of its kind on the Irish Sea. In summer season, she operates daily sailings from Douglas to Liverpool, and weekly/twice weekly sailings to Belfast and Dublin. In the winter she is laid up in Liverpool and goes on reserve until the summer season.
Here is video of her days wearing haze grey warpaint: