About Wightlink Ferries Services, Routes & Fleet
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Wightlink and its forerunners have provided ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight for more than 160 years. In 2005 Wightlink was bought by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund for an estimated £240 Million. Wightlink has an annual revenue £51 million. In the early nineteenth century, ferries ran to the island from Lymington and Portsmouth. Later, steam ferries operated a circular route around Lymington, Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Portsmouth. When the rail companies became involved they concentrated on two direct routes between Lymington and Yarmouth and Portsmouth and Ryde.
Ownership of the ferries eventually passed from the British Railways Board to Sealink UK Limited. In 1984, when Sealink UK Limited was denationalised, the operating name became Sealink British Ferries and was subsequently bought by the Bermuda based ‘Sea Containers Ltd’. When Stena Line bought Sealink British Ferries in 1990, the Isle of Wight Ferries remained with Sea Containers, renaming the company ‘Wightlink’.
In June 1995 the company was the subject of a management buy-in. In 2005 it was bought by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund.
In 2004, Wightlink decided to renew its sponsorship of the Wightlink Raiders ice hockey team
In October 2006 Wightlink announced that it intended to built two new ferries for the Yarmouth to Lymington route. These are going to be slightly bigger than the original and will only hold 360 while the existing ferries hold 500 passengers. The two ferries are not expected to enter service till June 2008 but will arrive at the solent in May. Recently Wightlink have announcent that a third ferry will be built for the route and will enter service in spring 2009.
In March 2008 Wightlink also revealed that an order has been placed with FBMA Marine to construct 2 new passenger catamarans for the Portsmouth to Ryde service to replace the three craft currently employed. They will enter service in 2009.
Wightlink Ferries Routes
The 40 minute crossing between Wightlink's Gunwharf terminal in Portsmouth and Fishbourne is served by five purpose built vessels. These ships provide the only 24 hour connection to the Island for cars, passengers, coaches and freight vehicles with sailings every 30 minutes at peak times.
Wightlink's fastest passenger connection is provided by our high speed FastCat catamarans which run the route between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head. The comfortable FastCats connect the railway stations at either end of the service in around 18 minutes. With direct mainline connections to London Waterloo, Brighton, Bristol and Southampton from Portsmouth and onward Island Line services to Brading, Sandown and Shanklin from Ryde Pier Head this is the best connected service to the Island.
The shortest and fastest vehicle route to the Island is between Lymington, in the New Forest, and Yarmouth in West Wight. This 30 minute route is served by three ferries, Caedmon, Cenwulf and Cenred. You can sit back in the lounges, with bar and café facilities, or relax on the observation decks as you cruise the most picturesque route to the Island. On the mainland there is easy access to Lymington from London, Southampton, Bournemouth and the West Country by road, and by rail, with Lymington Pier station being within our terminal complex.
Wightlink Ferries Fleet
Fishbourne. The following car ferries are used on the Fishbourne to Portsmouth route:
Summary - St Catherine was built by Robb Caledon Shipbuilders, of Leith at a cost of £5 million, and entered service with Wightlink on 3 July 1983. She was at the time the biggest ferry ever to serve with Wightlink and the first to be able to carry more than 100 cars. Local papers reported that she made the other Isle of Wight ferries looked like toys in comparison to her. Entering service on the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route, she was the first of the Isle of Wight ferries to use an asymmetric three-propeller layout with a bridge mounted forward. Two decks of passenger accommodation are provided above the car deck, with two bar areas and seating space. Also at the time one of the fastest car ferries in the company, she allowed Wightlink to provide a 35-minute crossing of the Solent. Two older ferries on the route were then withdrawn from service, whilst another, MV Caedmon was transferred to join her sisters on the route between Lymington and Yarmouth. St Catherine remained the largest ship in the Wightlink fleet until her sister, MV St Helen entered service later in 1983, and took the title. St Catherine was present at the International Fleet Review in 2005, representing Wightlink with a number of her sisters.
Summary - Wightlink's MV St Helen entered service with Sealink on 28 November 1983 shortly after her sister MV St Catherine becoming the largest isle of Wight ferry, a record held until 2001 when MV St Clare entered service.
Summary - MV St Cecilia is a vehicle and passenger ferry operated by Wightlink on their route from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight, the route she has taken throughout her life.
Summary - Built in Gdansk in 2001 MV St Claire she wasthe newest ship in the fleet until the MV Wight Light and MV Wight Sky enter service later in 2008. Facilities on board include a café, bar, lifts, TVs in seating areas, a shop and toilets.
Summary - was built in 1990 for the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route, the route she has taken throughout her life. St Faith is the second youngest of Wightlink's 'St Class' ships, after St Clare.
Ryde. The following passenger-only catamaran (FastCat) ferries operate on the Ryde Pier head to Portsmouth route:
HSC FastCat Shanklin
HSC FastCat Ryde
HSC Our Lady Pamela
From early Autumn 2009, the three current high-speed vessels operating the Ryde to Portsmouth route are expected to be withdrawn and replaced with Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II.
HSC Wight Ryder I is the first of Wightlink's new purpose built high-speed passenger catamarans to operate the Ryde to Portsmouth ferry route. It is set to be introduced along with sister ship HSC Wight Ryder II. Both vessels are expected to leave their construction site in the Philippines in June, and be ready for service by early Autumn. In preparation for the new ships, berthing works have started at both Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier. They form part of a multi-million pound investment by Wightlink across its cross-Solent routes. The existing vessels will be phased out on arrival of the new ones.
Unlike previous high-speed passenger catamarans owned by Wightlink, the new vessels will no longer feature yellow and white FastCat branding. They will be branded in a Wightlink livery similar to the much larger car ferries adapted for smaller ships.
Summary - MV Wight Light was designed by naval architects Hart Fenton & Company. She was constructed at the Kraljevica shipyard in Croatia where she was launched on 26 January 2008, the first of three vessels to be completed that were commissioned by Wightlink to replace their aging ferries MV Caedmon, MV Cenred and MV Cenwulf on the Yarmouth to Lymington route. Her sister ships will be MV Wight Sky and MV Wight Sun.
Summary - MV Wight Sky is a new design of Car & Passenger Ferry operating on Wightlink's Lymington to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight route. The MV Wight Sky is a completely new design of vessel for Wightlink, using a more people friendly layout. The design utilises fixed and mobile mezzanine decks, complete disabled access & a larger cafe & sundeck area. The vessel is intended to last as long as the current C class vessels. The MV Wight Sky was designed by naval architects Hart Fenton & Company. The MV Wight Sky is being constructed at the Kraljevica shipyard in Croatia where she was launched on 14 April 2008, the second of three new Wightlink vessels to be completed.
MV Wight Sun
MV Wight Sun is Wightlink's newest ferry. The vessel was launched on the 29 June 2008 and entered service with Wightlink in the summer of 2009. MV Wight Sun will join the Wight class fleet on the Yarmouth and Lymington service. Her two sisters, MV Wight Light and MV Wight Sky entered service in February 2009.