RED Funnel is cancelling sailings over the next two weeks after being hit by Covid-related staff shortages.

The company says about 30% of its employees are currently "unavailable to work", many of whom are self-isolating after being contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system.

Some sailings on the Southampton to East Clowes have been cancelled as a result.

Fran Collins, chief executive at Red Funnel, said: "Lower numbers of staff affects our ability to load and unload our ferries quickly.

"There is a minimum number of critical roles required to ensure the safety of passengers, and a minimum staff to passenger ratio, meaning if we are unable to fully crew a sailing, we are unable to accept the maximum number of passengers on board.

"As the school holidays approach we want to provide our customers with confidence in their bookings as well as ensuring our Island passengers continue to receive a reliable service.

"Protecting the busy Friday to Monday weekend period is essential to minimise the impact on local traffic, and to ensure we safeguard our passengers’ weekend travel plans to the best of our ability.

"For this reason, we have made the decision to reduce our service for the coming two weeks.

"This will allow colleagues to be redeployed to supplement Friday to Monday services as well as provide more bandwidth for our teams to be able to recruit and train new team members."

Some vehicle sailings on July 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29 will be cancelled.

"All customers with bookings on cancelled sailing times will receive an email and/or text notification with their new departure time," said Ms Collins.

"These notifications will be sent starting in the next few hours, with all messages expected to be delivered within the next 24 hours.

"Email updates will be sent to the email address used to make the affected booking, and those customers who indicted a mobile number at the time of booking will also receive a text message update.

"The majority of customers can expect that their booking will be moved to one hour later than their original departure time.

"However, customers should verify their new departure time by consulting their email and/or text messages.

"Those customers requiring further assistance or who may need to change their revised departure time should call Red Funnel at 023 8001 9192.

"I am very sorry that these actions have been necessary and we thank our customers for their continued patience and understanding as we continue to do the best we can to keep sailing during these challenging times.

"I also extend thanks to our incredible teams who are working very hard to provide more certainty to our customers and minimise the impact on local traffic.

"We will continue to review our schedule regularly and keep customers informed should any further changes be necessary."