Regular readers will be familiar with my constant moans about the dramatic decline of shipbuilding in the UK. Red Funnel’s announcement that its next new fast ferry Red Jet 6 will be built in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight lifted my spirits and is really great news!
After receiving tenders from shipyards around the world, the company has placed an order for a 40m high-speed catamaran with Shemara Refit LLP for delivery in summer 2016. Costing £6m, Red Jet 6 will be the first vessel of her kind to be built in the UK for 15 years.
Aluminium fast ferries have been designed and built on the Isle of Wight in the past. Three pioneering Solent class catamarans were built by FBM Marine in Cowes for Red Funnel in 1991, 1992 and 1998 and FBM’s customers included the Ministry of Defence and Thames Clippers. Vessels were also constructed for operators in Portugal, Greece and Asia and large 45m and 53m TriCat catamarans were built between 1995 and 1999 for service in Greece, Hong Kong and Macau. The Cowes shipyard closed in 2000, marking the end of building displacement fast ferries in the UK until now.
Isle of Wight based Shemara Refit won the order for Red Jet 6 by offering a competitively priced vessel which met Red Funnel’s design brief and desire to have the vessel built on the Isle of Wight. Confidence in Shemara Refit’s management capabilities and quality of workmanship stemmed from the impressive restoration of the famous motor yacht Shemara for Sir Charles Dunstone.
Kevin George, Red Funnel’s CEO commented “From the outset, Shemara Refit shared our vison to bring fast ferry construction back to the UK and particularly to Cowes on the Isle of Wight where the specialist aluminium fabrication skills and yard facilities still exist. The fact they could do this at a competitive price is a credit to the team at Shemara. The Red Jet 6 contract will bring significant inward investment to underpin the Island’s marine manufacturing sector and help to further grow the Isle of Wight economy. Red Jet 6 will serve the Isle of Wight for many years and we believe that it is important for as many young Islanders to be involved as possible. We will be inviting local schools to participate in mini projects and will be seeking to develop our existing support with the Royal Yacht Squadron Isle of Wight Foundation to ensure apprenticeship opportunities are open to young Islanders. In the competitive world of ship building, it is fantastic news that Red Jet 6 will be built for the Isle of Wight, on the Isle of Wight, by the Isle of Wight.”
Peter Morton, MD of Shemara Refit said “The Red Jet 6 contract will create 40-50 new jobs at Venture Quays in East Cowes as well as securing other jobs in the supply chain. Wherever possible these jobs will go to Islanders who have the right skills. We very much look forward to the re-birth of high speed passenger shipbuilding by producing a technically advanced vessel which we believe will have the potential for further orders in the future. As a consequence, we will be taking on a number of apprentices to provide the skills for the future.
Red Jet 6 will be Red Funnel’s largest and most innovative high-speed vessel yet, offering ground breaking levels of passenger comfort, reliability and safety. She will also be the greenest ship in Red Funnel’s fleet with a host of design features to reduce fuel consumption and protect the environment in line with the company’s ISO 1400:1 accreditation. The aluminium hull will be similar in design to Red Jet 4’s but to improve efficiency Red Jet 6 will be slightly longer at 41.12m. The passenger accommodation will be insulated from the hulls to reduce vibration and cabin noise. Like her sisters, Red Jet 6 will use waterjets rather than propellers to aid manoeuvrability and provide impressive stopping power whilst keeping wash to an absolute minimum.
Red Jet 6 will be configured to carry 275 passengers, who will experience a quiet, spacious and well-lit cabin fitted with leather seats and a sophisticated airhandling system designed to dry, cool or warm the air automatically. A new high bandwidth ship-to-shore Wi-Fi system has been specified which will be free for customers and the latest travel information system will be installed to show connecting services for buses, coaches, trains and flights in real-time. Provision has also been made to carry 22 bicycles.