A NEW £10 million freight ferry for the Solent has been launched.

A launch ceremony for Red Kestrel took place at the Camel Laird shipyard on Merseyside yesterday.

The Red Funnel roll-on-roll-off (roro) freight carrier vessel, will operate between Southampton and Isle of Wight and is due to enter service in May.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said: "We’re thrilled that not only will Red Kestrel increase our total capacity and enhance convenience for our cross-Solent customers but we also take tremendous pride in supporting the revival of world-class shipbuilding in this country. It’s a very special feeling for all of us and we’re in good hands with Cammell Laird. They have been a brilliant partner and we’re very grateful for all their tremendous work.”

Red Kestrel is Red Funnel’s first ship to be designed for freight traffic.

She is limited to 12 passengers and constructed specifically to provide additional year-round freight capacity for Southampton-East Cowes route, which currently handles 53% of all freight movements across the Solent.

At 74m in length, she will provide 265 lane metres of roll-on/roll-off freight capacity.

To minimise her environmental footprint, the hull shape has been designed specifically to reduce wash and a propulsion package has been selected to make her highly fuel efficient

Azimuth thrusters supplied by Rolls Royce, will also make the ship very manoeuvrable. The crossing time of 55-60 minutes will be identical to Red Funnel’s existing Raptor class ships and she will use the same berths in Southampton and East Cowes.

Tony Graham Cammell Laird Chief Operating Officer, said, “We are especially proud to be working for a British ferry company, winning the contract against international competition.

"It is tremendous to see more ship owners and ferry operators choosing to build in the UK, this is very much in line with the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy which aims to recalibrate British shipbuilding as a major job and wealth creator now and into the future.”