A NEW ferry worth £20m will be built to serve Wightlink Ferries’ Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.
It will be the most environmentally friendly vessel to serve the Isle of Wight and should enter service in 2018, as part of a £45m project to improve the route.
The project also includes new boarding ramps at both Portsmouth’s Gunwharf terminal and in Fishbourne to permit double-deck loading, an extension to the company’s current flagship St Clare and a new terminal building at Portsmouth.
This follows the £70m spent over the last 15 years on new ferries for the Yarmouth to Lymington and Ryde Pier Head to Portsmouth Harbour routes.
The new ship, yet to be named, will be slightly larger than Wightlink’s flagship St Clare. It will use hybrid battery technology, as well as conventional fuel, to reduce emissions and make the vessel quieter.
The new ferry will have two fixed vehicle decks to hold the equivalent of 178 cars and space for more than 1,000 people on board with luxurious and comfortable seats and cafés.
Cemre shipyard in Turkey won the contract to carry out the work.
Wightlink’s interim chief executive John Burrows said: ‘This major investment will allow us to carry more cars, lorries and other vehicles to and from the Isle of Wight and help us improve reliability and punctuality, especially at the busiest times of the year.
‘Hybrid battery technology will reduce our carbon footprint and help us to operate more efficiently and quietly.’
This follows the granting of planning permission by local authorities in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
Portsmouth’s council leader Donna Jones said: ‘The commitment by Wightlink to invest in its Portsmouth site is great news.
‘The city’s connection with the Isle of Wight and this opportunity for the Island’s businesses to keep growing is essential.
‘Getting people on and off regular, up-to-date ferries providing a first class service is essential for communities on both sides of the Solent.’