#NewPortaFERRY – Cammell Laird, the Birkenhead based marine and specialist engineering company has been awarded a £5.7m project by the Northern Ireland's Department for Regional Development.
The news follows an open procurement exercise which attracted interest from shipyards across Europe.
The contract will see the firm construct a new car and passenger ferry to replace the MV Strangford operating the Strangford-Portaferry service on The Narrows at the entrance of Strangford Lough in Co. Down. The new ferry is due to be delivered by August 2016.
Mr Rob McBurney, Commercial Director of Cammell Laird, said: "We are very pleased to have been awarded the contract for the construction of the new Strangford Ferry. The company has a long tradition of ship building and we look forward to working with the Department over the coming years."
The new ferry will have capacity for 28 cars and 260 passengers and will share the ferry operation on a rotational basis with the MV Portaferry II. This will provide improved capacity and remove the need for a 7.5 tonne weight restriction that is in place when the MV Strangford is in service.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said: "The new ferry will replace the existing MV Strangford with a new modern ferry that has been designed specifically for this service. The new ferry will be built over the next 18 months and, when it comes into operation, will provide a more reliable and efficient ferry service.
"The Department for Regional Development currently operates a vehicle ferry service in Strangford Lough between Strangford and Portaferry with two vehicle ferries and a back-up passenger ferry. The new ferry will replace the existing MV Strangford which is over 40 years old and is approaching the end of its economically operational life."
The Department has engaged with a range of stakeholders, including the public, the Committee for Regional Development and local councils during the development of the ferry proposals.
A representative of the Department confirmed that the project team will continue to keep stakeholders informed during the construction of the new ferry.
The Minister added that good progress was also being made on the tender process for a new ferry for Rathlin. Tender documents have been issued to a shortlist of ship builders and they hope to award the contract in April.