Wightlink have three new ferries coming into service on the Lymington-Yarmouth route during 2008-9. The new ferries will mark the start of a whole new era for the route, as they will be more fuel efficient, offer greater flexibility and will have more attractive passenger facilities on board.
The ferries have been designed by Naval Architects ‘Hart Fenton’ and are being built at the Brodogradiliste Kraljevica, Croatia. The current ferries have to be replaced, as they are now over 35 years old and whilst they have provided excellent service they are now reaching the end of their useful lives. It is simply not practical to invest in modifications that will be required to comply with imminent regulations.
The new ferries have been designed exclusively for the route and we have carried out a process of extensive consultation to arrive at the design of the new ferries to ensure that they both complied with the new regulations and were also suitable for the change in traffic mix on the route.
The first keel was laid in June 2007, Wightlink took delivery of the first two ships in 2008, and they are expected to enter service late in the year. The third ship is due to join the first two in spring 2009. The new ships are being built under the supervision of Portsmouth based Naval Architects, Hart Fenton; and Wightlink’s own Project Manager, Colin Stanton, who will be based at the yard in Croatia for the duration of the build.
Naming and Dedication Ceremony for Wight Light after thousands check out Wightlink’s new ship at free Open Days in Lymington
Following two highly successful Open Days in Lymington when over 2,500 members of the public took the opportunity to check out the first of Wightlink’s new Wight-Class fleet of ships, purpose-built for the Lymington-Yarmouth ferry route, Wight Light was officially named in a private naming and dedication ceremony on Thursday 30th October.
Wight Light was blessed by Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, Caroline Baston, and her plaque unveiled by seven-year old Jessica Willson, daughter of Wightlink Chief Executive Andrew Willson. Speaking to an invited audience of stakeholders from the Isle of Wight and the mainland, Mr Willson said that ‘the Wight-Class ferries signify a new era for the route and for Wightlink, representing a sizable investment and a big commitment overall that will secure the future of the route for the life-cycle of the ships, which should take us past the bicentennial in 2030’. In turn Major General Martin White, Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight thanked Wightlink for its continued commitment to the Island, not just with its ongoing investment in the three cross-Solent ferry routes but also for its community support, most notably its sponsorship programme for Island youth.
Prior to the naming ceremony, Wightlink threw open its doors on 28th and 29th October for Open Days when staff and crew were on hand to answer questions.
Children attending the Open Days during the school half-term holiday received a free souvenir gift and those aged between seven and 14 years had the chance to win one of three Fruit Shoots mountain bikes, courtesy of Pepsi. Island resident, Louise Hart, who attended with her three children said ‘Wight Light is a lovely ship, spacious inside and with great facilities. It is sad to say goodbye to the old ships but these will be a fantastic step forward on a route that is definitely the most picturesque way to travel
New Ships Update
- Wight Sun, the third new Wight Class vessel, was formally handed over to Wightlink by the Croatian Yard immediately prior to Christmas. Preparations are now under way for the voyage home to the UK, with an expected departure date of 27th March from Croatia. Based on the time taken by the two previous vessels, Wight Light and Wight Sky, Wight Sun will be expected to arrive in the Solent around mid-April.
- For the Lymington to Yarmouth service, introduction of the new ferries is still a few weeks away. While the Risk Assessment trials for Lymington Harbour Commissioners (LHC) are essentially complete, discussions are ongoing with Natural England, LHC and various other Regulatory Authorities with regards to environmental considerations and the assessment of any prospective impact of the new ferries on the habitat surrounding the Lymington River and Estuary.
- ABP Mer, who are advising Wightlink on environmental considerations, have undertaken some further detailed analysis of the available data, including that arising from the risk assessment trials, to assist all parties to reach a consensus view on the current situation and potential future impact. This we believe will support our ongoing claims that the impact of the new ferries on the surrounding habitat will be negligible.
- Once the environmental assessment is concluded and a final position is reached on environmental impact, the Wightlink Board of Directors will be in a position to make a long-awaited decision with regards to the introduction of the new ferries, well in advance of expiry of the Passenger Safety Certificates on the Cenwulf and Cenred on 13th March 2009.