A CROSS Solent ferry service has been rigged up with the latest technology to keep passengers and transport companies informed of sailing timings through the micro-blogging site Twitter.

Red Funnel, which operates car and passenger ferries between Southampton and the Isle of Wight, has teamed up with IBM to provide accurate, up-to-the minute information on the whereabouts of its boats.

Using on-board sensors linked to data analysis computers, the ferries will send messages via Twitter to customers' mobile phones and computers as well as the Red Funnel website.

The aim is to keep transport companies informed of any unforeseen delays caused by weather or technical problems or medical emergencies.

Jonathan Green, sales and marketing director at Red Funnel, said: ''With nearly 14,000 vehicle ferry sailings and 23,000 Red Jet passenger sailings each year, improving the information flow to help our customers better plan their journeys and avoid unnecessary delays is of tremendous value.

''In the future we expect to be able to further develop the system to provide real-time information on how the service is operating against the schedule, and also be able to (contact) SMS customers booked on the service to advise of any delay.''

The system has been set up by Dr Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM master inventor and distinguished engineer, who has also recently set up his home on the Isle of Wight to send Twitter messages to enable him to remotely monitor energy use and security.