08/01/2002

Minister launches new Strangford ferry

The new £2.7 million Strangford Lough ferry was officially named and launched by Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Peter Robinson on Tuesday January 8.

Replacing the MV Strangford, the larger vehicle and passenger MV Portaferry II can hold up to 28 vehicles, eight more than its predecessor.

At the launch of the new vessel, Mr Robinson said: “I take pleasure in naming the new Strangford Lough ferry, the MV Portaferry II, which I trust will provide as long, reliable and safe service as the MV Strangford.

“At a cost of approximately £2.7 million, the new ferry represents a considerable investment in the service and demonstrates my Department’s full commitment to the operation. We will continue to look at ways of improving the service and, as most people are aware, are currently considering involving the private sector to provide innovation in the management and operation of the ferry.”

The Minister paid tribute to the ferry crews for their difficult and demanding work on the fast-flowing Strangford narrows. He said: “On top of their normal duties, they have been heavily engaged in trials and training on the new ferry since delivery to ensure that it could be brought into full service as quickly as possible.

“Credit is also due to everyone who has been involved in the project from the outset including my department’s Roads Service and the shipbuilders, McTay Marine.”

Held in reserve for times when the MV Portaferry II is being serviced, the smaller MV Strangford will assume a standby and support role, and will also be brought into operation during the peak traffic periods in the summer months.

The 0.6 nautical mile ferry crossing that typically takes eight minutes cuts out a road journey around Strangford Lough that is approximately 64 kilometres and takes around 70 minutes by car.

The service normally operates with one vessel which leaves each slipway at 30 minute intervals; from Strangford on the hour and half hour and from Portaferry at quarter past and quarter to each hour.

At certain busy periods, such as Bank Holidays and summer weekends, both vessels are operated off schedule to meet the extra passenger demand.

The MV Strangford replaces the original MV Portaferry as the second standby vessel and the latter will be disposed of. (SP)

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