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UPDATED: A plume of black smoke has been seen to be billowing from the Wightlink car ferry in the Solent this morning (Thursday). 

Several Island Echo readers have got in touch after seeing the thick, black smoke rising from the vessel ‘St Faith’ the middle of the Solent.

Island Echo understands there has been a fire on the bridge of the ferry. Passengers are said to have been moved to one end of the vessel.

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The ferry is continuing to make its way to Fishbourne.

UPDATE @ 09:58 – 2 fire appliances from Ryde and the Incident Support Unit from East Cowes are attending Wightlink’s Fishbourne terminal alongside the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, HM Coastguard and Hampshire Constabulary’s Police launch ‘Commander’.

The outside of the port side of the bridge – where the ferry is controlled from – has been charred by the flames. Thankfully, the fire has been contained thanks to the swift action of the ship’s crew who have extinguished the blaze.

According to witnesses on board Wight Sun, which was departing Fishbourne, the St Faith ferry made speed towards Fishbourne, docking just moments about Wight Sun pulled away.

Ferry services are currently delayed as a result of the incident.

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UPDATE @ 10:20 – It has been confirmed that an air conditioning unit situated on the outside of the vessel sparked the blaze. It remains unclear as to why it caught fire.

Wightlink have confirmed that 52 passengers and 13 crew were on board the ferry at the time of the incident but all have escaped injury. The Isle of Wight Ambulance Service has now stood down.

In a statement the cross-Solent operator has said (Updated at 10:55):

“Earlier this morning Wightlink’s car ferry St Faith, 09:00, sailing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, experienced a small fire on an outside deck in a non-passenger area.

“It was immediately put out by members of the crew and no one was injured. Passengers and vehicles disembarked from the vessel, as usual.

“There were 52 passengers and 13 crew onboard the ferry.

“Wightlink services to and from the Isle of Wight are running normally. St Faith is at Fishbourne while initial investigations are carried out. The relevant authorities have been informed.

Bembridge Coastguard Rescue Team are now on scene and are liaising with Wightlink staff.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said:

“At about 9.30 today the St Faith Wightlink car ferry contacted the UK Coastguard reporting a fire on their bridge wing port side. When the call was made, the vessel was on route from Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Isle of Wight.

“The vessel is now alongside the ferry terminal in Fishbourne. UK Coastguard immediately sent the Bembridge Coastguard Rescue Team, Cowes RNLI Lifeboat, Isle of Wight Fire Service and the Hampshire Police to the scene.

“The fire has been extinguished and all passengers have been evacuated from the vessel, with no reported injuries”.

Wighlink’s Fishbourne-Portsmouth service is currently suspended as a result of the incident. It is unknown when ferries will resume, especially as St Clare is out of operation for a refit.

St Faith remains docked at the Fishbourne terminal.

UPDATE @ 11:40 – In a statement issued by the Isle of Wight Council, it has been said the leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Councillor Dave Stewart was made aware of an incident on board the Wightlink ferry this morning by senior managers of the company, on the understanding the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service were already in attendance.

Councillor Stewart said:

“I have offered any further assistance that the council can provide, to help manage the situation.”

UPDATE @ 13:37 – Wightlink say they are running a ‘good service’ on their Fishbourne-Portsmouth route. It is unclear if there are any delays as a result of this morning’s hold up.

More to follow

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