Red Funnel Ferries celebrates the keel laying of its new UK built freight ship.

At a keel laying ceremony Red Funnel announced that its new £10m freight ship will be called Red Kestrel. This keel-laying took place at Cammell Laird’s  yard in Birkenhead and was witnessed by some 300 invited guests and the shipyard is scheduled to deliver the vessel in spring 2019.

Karen George, wife of Red Funnel’s Chairman, had the honour of pushing the button to lay down the first section of the keel. She was accompanied by the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment at Department of Work and Pensions; John Syvret CBE, CEO of Cammell Laird; and Kevin George, Chairman of Red Funnel Group. This milestone event was followed by a keynote address from the Minister of State and formed part of his visit to businesses in the North West of England.

Kevin George said, “We are proud to have placed this order in the UK as the work helps ensure the revival of world-class shipbuilding in this country.  Keel laying is one of the most time-honoured traditions in the building of a ship and we very much look forward to watching the build progress over the coming months. Once in service, the additional freight capacity on our Southampton-East Cowes route will help grow the Isle of Wight economy.”

John Syvret CBE, CEO of Cammell Laird, said, “It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the entire workforce to welcome Red Funnel’s team to Cammell Laird for this historic keel laying ceremony. My thanks go to Kevin George and his executive team for placing their trust in us. Cammell Laird management and workforce are looking forward to building this state-of-the-art ferry, drawing on all our marine engineering expertise. We are especially proud to be working for a British ferry company and winning the contract against international competition. This wonderful new ferry will join a collection of ferries that Cammell Laird has built in recent years, and will share the build hall with the iconic vessel Sir David Attenborough, which is the largest commercial vessel built in Britain for a generation. 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.”

Alok Sharma MP said: “I am delighted that Red Funnel’s multi-million pound investment is supporting local jobs, providing a boost to the local economy and also enhancing Cammell Laird’s very strong shipbuilding credentials.”

In time honoured tradition and as a symbol of good luck, coins, in this case an Isle of Wight silver sixpence dating from 1811 and a halfpenny from 1792 were placed under the keelblock. Both coins will eventually be recovered and presented to “Red Kestrel” when she enters service.

Red Kestrel is Red Funnel’s first dedicated ro-ro freight ship and will provide additional year-round freight capacity on Red Funnel’s Southampton-East Cowes route which currently handles 53% of all freight movements across the Solent.

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.  Use of proven azimuth thrusters supplied by Rolls Royce, will also make the ship highly 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.