Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight freight ferry named Red Kestrel

Red Kestrel Image copyright Alex Anderson / Maritime Filming UK
Image caption Red Kestrel is Red Funnel's first dedicated freight vessel to operate between Southampton and the Isle of Wight

A new £10m freight ferry for the Isle of Wight has been named at a ceremony in Southampton.

Red Kestrel is the first freight-only roll-on-roll-off vessel to operate between Southampton and East Cowes.

Operator Red Funnel hopes the vessel, which can can carry up to 12 full-sized lorries, will free up space on its conventional car ferries.

It arrived on the south coast last week after being designed and built at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.

The vessel will initially sail four times a day on the Southampton to East Cowes route.

Following sea trials, it will enter service next month.

Red Funnel Chairman Kevin George said the vessel offered "flexibility in capacity."

"The business has reached the stage where at times we are full for freight and sadly turning bookings away. This is a great solution for our customers and shareholders."

Speaking at the naming ceremony held on the dockside in Southampton, employment minister Alok Sharma said the ship was a "vote of confidence in the economy of Southampton and the Isle of Wight".

Analysis

By Paul Clifton, BBC South transport correspondent

Should passengers care about the naming of a ferry that only carries lorries? Absolutely.

The route between Southampton and East Cowes carries just over half of all freight across the Solent.

Moving lorries off the existing ships and on to a new vessel will make room for more tourist cars on the rest of the fleet.

That's necessary partly because cars are simply getting bigger - the same number of vehicles take up more deck space than they did a few years ago. And Red Funnel carries 800,000 cars a year.

Image copyright Cammell Laird
Image caption Red Kestrel was designed and built at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead

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