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15 May 2015, 06:31 | Updated: 15 May 2015, 06:32
A new ferry's been ordered by Wightlink as part of a £45 million investment in its Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.
The new flagship, designed and built specifically for the route and with the capacity to carry the equivalent of 178 cars and more than 1,000 people on each crossing, is planned to come into service in 2017.
It will boast a host of features to minimise the ship's impact on the Solent and its shoreline. Plans include the capacity to use both MGO and LNG fuels, a sophisticated power management system, recycling engine heat to warm water and indoor spaces, and a modern hull designed to create low levels of wash. Wightlink has commissioned environmental specialists to ensure the proposals meet all relevant legislation.
There will also be improvements to terminals at the company's ports of Portsmouth Gunwharf and Fishbourne. They will mean better facilities for customers, and faster loading and unloading times which will reduce congestion, particularly at Portsmouth Gunwharf. New boarding ramps will allow vehicles to be loaded and unloaded on two levels simultaneously and more quietly than at present. As part of this investment, the capacity of Wightlink's current flagship St Clare will be increased so it can use the same 'double deck' loading system.
Chief Operating Officer John Burrows says:
"Wightlink is proud to invest in our lifeline service to and from the Isle of Wight. Since 2009 we have bought five new ships for our Portsmouth to Ryde Pier and Lymington to Yarmouth routes, and we are delighted to be announcing today's investment in our Portsmouth Gunwharf to Fishbourne route. Our new ship will be the most modern, comfortable and environmentally friendly ferry crossing the Solent and we look forward to carrying many more Islanders and holidaymakers every year.
"The works to our terminals will see improved customer facilities, quicker and quieter loading and unloading, and reduced traffic congestion. The introduction of a second tier of boarding lanes at Portsmouth will have a particularly positive effect on reducing traffic and improving road safety for pedestrians in and around the harbour.
"Today we are inviting our customers and other stakeholders to share their views on our project to modernise and improve the service we offer."