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New Ferry Funding For Strangford/Portaferry Service Announced
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A long-awaited announcement has been welcomed by local politicians that the Strangford ferry service is to get a new ferry built and it could be in place by Spring 2016.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has secured the funding needed to begin the project for the new ferries to operate on the Strangford/Portaferry route.

The Minister welcomed confirmation of funding as part of the Executive’s 2014-15 Capital Reallocation Exercise announcement in the Assembly today.

Ards Councillor Joe Boyle has welcomed the announcement of a new ferry for Strangford/Portaferry

Ards Councillor Joe Boyle has welcomed the announcement of a new ferry for Strangford/Portaferry

The Department for Regional Development is now developing an initial timetable for the project and the new ferries could be in operation by Spring 2016.

The Department operates a vehicle ferry service in Strangford Lough with two vehicle ferries and a back-up passenger ferry. A new ferry is also planned for Rathlin Island.

Minister Danny Kennedy said: “The new ferries will ultimately replace two of the existing ferries. on the Strangford/Portaferry route, the MV Strangford is 44 years old.On the Ballycastle/Rathlin route the MV Canna is 37 years old. Both ferries will be approaching the end of their economic operational life over the next few years.”

Initial estimates for the total capital investment cost is £5.5million for the Portaferry/Strangford route.

The Minister added: “With the cost of maintenance increasing for both vessels it is more cost effective to replace them with modern and more efficient vessels.”

The Department has engaged with a range of stakeholders, including the Committee for Regional Development and local councils in both areas in September to inform them about the project.

Shannon Welcomes Ferry Investment

Strangford constituency MP Jim Shannon has welcomed the announcement by DRD that there is to be a new ferry for the Strangford Ferry Service between Portaferry and Downpatrick.

Funding for a new ferry has been approved.

Funding for a new ferry has been approved.

“I thank the Minister for setting aside this money as it is long due. The ferry is over 40 years old and is not as reliable as it once was. Although the ferry is a great tourist attraction, it is also the path for many people to get to work, and the delays to get the ferry fixed and other maintenance issues have impacted on people getting to work.
“It is fantastic that a new ferry which will be much more economical and reliable is to be commissioned and again I offer thanks to the Minister for finally making the decision to allocate funding for a new ferry. It can’t come too soon.”

Boyle Says New ferry Is Good News For Ards Penisnula

Ards  Borough Councillor Joe Boyle has welcomed the news that the older of the two Strangford Ferry vessels operating the crossing between Portaferry and Strangford, the ‘ MV Strangford‘, is to be replaced by March 2016 having had the business for the replacement vessel approved by Senior Stormont Officials and funding acknowledged by the Finance Minister Simon
He said: “Whilst the finer details of this replacement vessel are still unknown it has been my suggestion that a replica size of the current ‘ MV Portaferry II ‘ is strongly considered to maintain the same level of service in the event of a breakdown or the annual refit servicing involving both vessels.Councillor Boyle said: “I have raised the issue of replacing this vessel for a number of years due to dependability issues and maintainence costings attached to the current ageing ‘MV Strangford‘ that whilst having served the needs of those crossing Strangford Lough for many years the reality is that it is now well past it’s sell by date.
“The expected service life of the ‘MV Strangford‘ whenever first introduced in 1969 was 30 years, currently the ‘MV Strangford‘ is approaching 44 years of having been in service operation. This is great news for the regular users as well as visitors to the area and it is important and necessary that the standard of service within the Strangford Ferry Service is maintained and where possible enhanced to suit the needs of it’s customers.
“This is an important link to the the people living on both sides of Strangford Lough for their necessary travel either to their place of work, Schools, Colleges, sporting activities or having to access the services of an excellent Hospital facility in Downpatrick. There has
even been times whenever the Strangford Ferry Service has been availed of by emergency services from the Down district travelling to the Ards Peninsula during busy periods to assist their colleagues under pressure already out serving the needs of the public.
“It is also an important feature for tourism within the area and contributes significantly to being part of the overall maritime cluster of attractions within the life of Stangford Lough.
“I am mindful of those wishing to see a bridge established over Strangford Lough along with the economic benefits that this would bring to the area, however, in the absence of the significant funding required not only for a bridge spanning Strangford Lough but also the major infrastructural requirements necessary on both sides of Strangford Lough It is important that in the immediate future that there is in place an improved and enhanced more dependable Strangford Ferry Service,” added Councillor Boyle.

Sinn Féin Call For Social Clauses In Procurement For Ferry

South Down Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has welcomed news that £2million of funding has been secured for the procurement of the new Portaferry to Strangford ferry vessel.

The funding has been made available through the Executive’s Monitoring Round Exercise and could see the new ferry in operation by Spring 2016. Mr Hazzard said: “The current vessel, MV Strangford is 44years old, so replacement is essential in order to sustain the level of service delivery on offer.

“Initial estimates for the total capital investment cost signal a total of £5.5million will be needed to successfully complete the project but I welcome that Minister Kennedy has this week confirmed the Strangford Ferry project as a priority scheme for his Department.

“Given the increasing cost of maintenance for the two vessels it’s more cost effective to replace them with modern and efficient vessels which can see these communities and the service into the future.

“Whilst I welcome this news of investment I do so with a degree of caution. I will be writing to the Minister this week to appeal that his Department ensure that the maximum social and economic benefits of this investment can be most felt in the Portaferry and Strangford/Lecale areas.

“I want t0 see this money being invested back in our community through social investment. Minister Kennedy has an opportunity to ensure that in the procurement of this new vessel, local companies are given precedence over international ones.

“I will be requesting that in deciding upon a contractor that the Minister considers the economic and societal benefits that can come from promoting and using indigenous business. I will also be requesting that the Minister engage with the sector and the local community on the key design features for the vessel, particularly with respect to environmental and noise impacts to make sure that any new vessel is both silent and clean.”