THE launch date for a new catamaran-ferry service around Belfast Lough scheduled to be up and running this summer has been pushed back to late September.

The two state-of-the-art high-speed catamarans specially designed for the ferry service have been completed in Queensland but are unable to begin their voyage to Belfast. The vessels have been loaded on container ships in Cairn but bad weather plaguing the South Pacific has delayed their six-week journey and set the whole process back.

Australian Roy Bendall, project manager for the new service said that he was disappointed that they have fallen behind in schedule but that it gave them more time to complete the berthing locations.

Thanks to a £4 million Australian investment the new service, called Loughlink, will connect major population centres in Bangor and Carrickfergus with central Belfast.

Roy Bendall, project manager for the new service said Belfast Lough is ideally suited for this sort of operation.

“The whole emphasis of Loughlink will be on comfort, speed and convenience and we’re aiming to entice commuters off the busy roads and on to the Lough for daily travel that allows them to sit back and enjoy the experience.”

Each ferry can carry 120 passengers and estimated journey times from both Bangor and Carrickfergus are expected to take about 25 minutes.

The Belfast ferry terminal will be at Donegal Quay in Laganside, just a few blocks from the city centre and will initially create 35 jobs in Belfast.

The ferry service is also hoping to target the leisure market with off peak cruising, attract private hire and provide a service to and from the Odyssey, Belfast’s new indoor 10,000-seat arena and entertainment centre. (AMcE)

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