Ferry News

160 years in the making ... Red Funnel’s first freight ferry Red Kestrel joins the fleet

After 160 years in business, Red Funnel Ferries, the original Isle of Wight ferry operator, today welcomed its first ever-freight ferry with a traditional ship-naming ceremony in Southampton.

Following 14 months in development, Red Kestrel became the operator’s first dedicated Ro-Ro freight ship in a ceremony which celebrated the vessel being built in the UK.

Red Kestrel of Red Funnel Ferries
Red Kestrel in Southampton today and, below, part of the pageantry of the traditional naming ceremony

Karen George, wife of Red Funnel’s chairman, Kevin George, christened the vessel with the traditional formality of breaking a bottle of champagne across its stern.

Alok Sharma, Minister of State for Employment at Department of Work and Pensions, also attended the ceremony and highlighted 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 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.

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.”

She added: “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.

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

Red Kestrel naming ceremony

Tony Graham, Cammell Laird’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “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.

Posted on 25th April 2019 at 04:02 pm in Ferry Operators | Red Funnel | Ferry News |

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