THE chief executive of Southampton-to-Isle of Wight ferry firm Red Funnel has stood down.

James Fulford has announced he is stepping down to “pursue opportunities elsewhere” after four years in the top job.

He said: “My time at Red Funnel has been amongst the most enjoyable of my working life.

“We have worked hard to engage with and meet the needs of our customers and, although there is much work left for my successors, I can look back on the last four years with some sense of achievement.

“Red Funnel is in good heart and I wish it every success for the future.”

Red Funnel chairman James Cooper said: “We will miss James’s enthusiasm, passion and drive but we look forward with confidence to the next phase in the business’s development under a new leader with a fresh perspective on how we will achieve our long term ambitions for Red Funnel.”

Red Funnel said Mr Fulford’s departure did not signal any change in strategy on the part of Red Funnel’s owner, Infracapital.

Group chief financial officer Paul Winter has been appointed interim chief executive while the company completes its search for a new chief executive. Mr Fulford will remain on the board until the end of the year.

Red Funnel, which employs 450 people, operates ferries between Southampton and Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It carries more than three million passengers a year.