A NEW 24-hour ferry service is set to launch in Portsmouth, taking passengers across the Solent in just 25 minutes.
Paul Duffield, founder and director of Nauti Boat Charters, plans to eventually have three speedy boats ferrying people from the city to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.
The Hilsea-based businessman told The News on-the-day ticket costs will be around £17 for a day return.
Just one 18-seater boat will be used when the firm has its ‘soft launch’ early next year.
He says the small craft will mean lower fuel costs than bigger operators, such as Wightlink.
He said: ‘It’s really the choice of the vessel.
‘The boats are very small, light and fast, compared to the Wight Riders, for example.
‘The problem is that those big ferries are running, most of the time, almost empty.
‘A nearly empty boat is very inefficient, with large numbers of crew, shore staff and very high fuel cost per passenger.
‘We will reverse that by having pretty much full boats and being very fuel efficient per passenger.’
Each boat will seat just 12 people to give passengers choice where they wish to sit.
At night just one boat will serve the route.
Mr Duffield added: ‘At night we can potentially run one vessel and that will be full most of the time.
‘During the day we put on additional vessels so we can almost effectively change the capacity of our boats.’
Mr Duffield’s firm has been supported by £50,000 from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s Bridging the Gap Fund.
Each boat costs around £200,000 to purchase.
It comes as Wightlink reduced its Fast-Cat service this month. The last boat now departs from Portsmouth at 10.15pm.
A spokeswoman for Wightlink said: ‘We recognise that Wightlink operates in a competitive market, which gives customers a range of services to choose from.
‘We believe that competition helps to drive up standards and keep prices affordable.
‘We will continue to work hard to provide a reliable and punctual service, which meets the needs of the overwhelming majority of our customers.
‘And we will be continuing our programme of investing in new ships and port facilities.’