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New UK Built Isle of Wight Freight Ferry Makes Maiden Delivery Voyage to Southampton

18th April 2019

#ferries - In the UK the newest addition to the fleet of an Isle of Wight operator, Red Funnel's freight ferry Red Kestrel has arrived this morning to berth at its new home in Southampton.

The new freight-only Ro-Ro (roll on-roll off) vessel last week departed Cammell Laird’s famous River Mersey shipyard on a delivery voyage bound for the English Channel port. This followed 14-months in development at the Merseyside yard on Birkenhead.

Red Kestrel's arrival into the Solent was assisted by tug, Willpower, giving her crew a well-deserved rest following successful sea trails, and guaranteeing Red Kestrel’s safe, on-time arrival at berth 48. 

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said, “We are all very excited to have welcomed Red Kestrel to her new home in Southampton ahead of her official naming ceremony next week.

“The addition of a new ship is always an exciting time for everyone at Red Funnel. We’re thrilled that not only will Red Kestrel increase our total capacity but will be Red Funnel's first dedicated Ro-Ro freight ship since the company’s inception almost 160 years ago.”

Red Kestrel will operate between Southampton and the Isle of Wight and will officially enter service in May. As a freight vessel, she is limited to 12 passengers and constructed specifically to provide additional year-round freight capacity for Red Funnel’s Southampton to East Cowes route, which currently handles 53 per cent of all freight movements across the Solent.

At 74m in length, she will provide 265 lane metres of Ro-Ro freight capacity.

To minimise the environmental footprint, the hull shape has been designed specifically to reduce wash and a propulsion package has been selected to make her highly fuel efficient, whilst meeting the latest Tier III emission regulations.

The use of proven azimuth thrusters supplied by Rolls Royce will also make the ship very manoeuvrable. Red Kestrel will use the same berths as Red Funnel’s existing Raptor class ro-pax vehicle ferries in Southampton and East Cowes.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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