THE keel for new freight ship which will operate in the Solent has been laid during a ceremony at the famous Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside.

Southampton-based Red Funnel also announced the name of their new £10 million ship – Red Kestrel.

Today's ceremony was attended by 300 invited guests.

Karen George, wife of Red Funnel’s Chairman, had the honour of pushing the button to lay down the first section of the keel, accompanied by the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment at Department of Work and Pensions; John Syvret CBE, CEO of Cammell Laird; and Kevin George, Chairman of Red Funnel Group.

The milestone event was followed by a keynote address from the Minister of State as part of his visit to businesses in the North West of England.

Kevin George said, “The keel laying is one of the most time-honoured traditions in the building of a ship and we very much look forward to watching the build progress over the coming months. Once in service, the additional freight capacity on our Southampton-East Cowes route will help grow the Isle of Wight economy.”

In time honoured tradition and as a symbol of good luck, coins, in this case an Isle of Wight silver sixpence dating from 1811 and a halfpenny from 1792 were placed under the keelblock. Both coins will eventually be recovered and presented to “Red Kestrel” when she enters service.

Red Kestrel, due to be completed in Spring 2019, is Red Funnel’s first dedicated ro-ro freight ship and will provide additional year-round freight capacity on Red Funnel’s Southampton-East Cowes route.

At 74m in length, she will provide 265 lane metres of roll-on/roll-off freight capacity and will carry up to 12 passengers.

To minimise the environmental footprint, the hull shape has been designed specifically to reduce wash.