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New UK Freight Ferry for Isle of Wight Service Is Given Traditional Naming Ceremony

25th April 2019
Red Funnel's new freight-ferry Red Kestrel was today given a traditional naming ceremony held in Southampton from where the newbuild will operate on the Solent to East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Red Funnel's new freight-ferry Red Kestrel was today given a traditional naming ceremony held in Southampton from where the newbuild will operate on the Solent to East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Photo: Red Funnel / Captain Ned Tutton

#ferries - It was a new direction for long-established British ferry company, Red Funnel Ferries, the original Isle of Wight ferry operator, as today they welcomed their first ever-ro-ro freight ferry with a traditional ship naming ceremony.

Following 14 months in development, Red Kestrel, has become the newest addition to Red Funnel's fleet. The newbuild will also be the first dedicated Ro-Ro freight ship since the company’s inception almost 160 years ago.

The Great British-themed naming ceremony, which celebrated Red Kestrel being built in the UK, took place in Southampton docks by the Ocean Terminal and was witnessed by some 200 invited guests. Karen George, wife of Red Funnel’s Chairman, Kevin George, had the honour of christening Red Kestrel, with the traditional formality of breaking a bottle of champagne across the stern of the vessel.

Karen was accompanied by the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment at Department of Work and Pensions, who also shared a speech highlighting the importance of British craftmanship, supporting local jobs and the revival of world-class shipbuilding in this country.

Opting for the build of the ship to be based within the UK, Red Funnel awarded the contract to the famous British shipbuilding company, Cammell Laird, based on the River Mersey at Birkenhead. In total, the project used 45 British supply chain businesses and generated 3,000-man hours of work for Cammell Laird's apprentices.

Commenting on the naming ceremony, Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said, “Today has marked a very special occasion in the history of Red Funnel. The addition of a new ship is always an exciting time for everyone, and Red Kestrel marks an important new direction for us as our first-ever freight ship.

“With the growth in the Isle of Wight economy over recent years, we had reached a point where we could no longer fulfil the growing demand. Following extensive research, we identified that to increase capacity on our passenger vessels, we would need a dedicated freight ferry to assist with the freight side of the business.

“Red Kestrel is designed to provide additional year-round freight capacity for our Southampton to East Cowes route, which currently handles 53% of all freight movements across the Solent.

“Our investment marks a vote of confidence that the UK and Isle of Wight economies are going to continue to grow and we can support this growth with the additional sailings Red Kestrel will provide.”

Tony Graham, Cammell Laird’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “Cammell Laird would like to thank Red Funnel for placing its trust in us to build this wonderful state-of-the-art ferry. Completing this ship sends a very strong message to the global maritime industry about Cammell Laird’s ferry building capabilities after we won the contract against international competition.

“Shipbuilding is back in a serious way on the Mersey and it has been brilliant to see the Red Kestrel being built alongside the iconic RRS Sir David Attenborough, which is the largest commercial vessel built in Britain for a generation We are proud to see the Red Kestrel join a collection of ferries that Cammell Laird has built in recent years.”

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.

At 74m in length, she will provide 265 lane metres of roll-on/roll-off freight capacity, allowing for 12 HGVs. 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.

The use of proven azimuth thrusters supplied by Rolls Royce will also make the ship very manoeuvrable. Her dedicated drivers-only lounge offers comforts and features such as access to hot/cold food, reclining leather seats with foot rests, free Wi-Fi and ample charging points.

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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