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Red Funnel’s brand new £10million freight ferry was launched on the banks of the River Mersey in Birkenhead earlier today (Tuesday).

Red Kestrel, which will enter service in May following trails and training, will operate between Southampton and Isle of Wight all year round.

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This new vessel is Red Funnel’s first dedicated RoRo freight ship since the company’s inception almost 200 years ago. It has been built at Cammell Laird’s famous shipyard in Birkenhead, highlighting Red Funnel’s commitment to British shipbuilding and engineering.

At 74m in length, she will provide 265 lane metres of roll-on/roll-off freight capacity and will carry up to 12 passengers. 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. The crossing time of 55-60 minutes will be identical to Red Funnel’s existing Raptor class ro-pax ships and she will use the same berths in Southampton and East Cowes.

L-R: Jeff Jones (CL), Aidan Bannon (RF), Sean Chambers (RF), Fran Collins (RF), Mark Slawson (RF), Lewis Grant (RF), Stuart Bendall (RF), Karen George (Ship Godmother), Kay Andrews, Captain Ned Tutton, Kevin George (RF), Tom Curwell (CL)

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, has today said:

“We are delighted by today’s launch of Red Kestrel. The addition of a new ship is always an exciting time for everyone in the company and we look forward to taking delivery in April.

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“We’re thrilled that not only will Red Kestrel increase our total capacity and enhance convenience for our cross-Solent customers but we also take tremendous pride in supporting the revival of world-class shipbuilding in this country. It’s a very special feeling for all of us and we’re in good hands with Cammell Laird. They have been a brilliant partner and we’re very grateful for all their tremendous work.”

Tony Graham Cammell Laird Chief Operating Officer, said:

“Cammell Laird would like to thank Red Funnel for placing its trust in us to build this wonderful state-of-the-art ferry, drawing on all our marine engineering expertise.

“We are especially proud to be working for a British ferry company, winning the contract against international competition. Today marks an important milestone in the project and we are proud to see the Red Kestrel join a collection of ferries that Cammell Laird has built in recent years. 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.

“Cammell Laird sees a big market in ferry repair, conversion and new build and we will be showcasing our work on the Red Kestrel at the Nor Shipping trade fair in Oslo later this year.

“It is tremendous to see more ship owners and ferry operators choosing to build in the UK, this is very much in line with the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy which aims to recalibrate British shipbuilding as a major job and wealth creator now and into the future.”

Photo thanks to Geoffrey Collins

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