Author: abby

Hovertravel’s Hoverbus has all-new look, thanks to new operator

Hovertravel’s Hoverbus has all-new look, thanks to new operator

From left to right: James Eustace, First Solent’s Commercial Director, and Neil Chapman, Hovertravel’s Managing Director

Hovertravel has awarded First Bus the contract to operate its Hoverbus service, which connects the hovercraft for crossings to and from the Isle of Wight taking passengers from stops across Portsmouth to its Southsea Terminal, starting from Wednesday 01 May.  From this date, customers will see a new bus with a new livery, although the timetable and route remain the same. To encourage more people to use the service, ticket prices are being reduced, making the Hoverbus an even more competitive option for all passengers.

Neil Chapman, managing director of Hovertravel, explains: “Connecting our hovercraft service with both train stations and city centre of Portsmouth is a crucial part of our customer journey and we are delighted to be working with First Bus to offer the Hoverbus.  We are also keen to see how we can be a proactive partner for the First Bus network, hopefully offering our customers better access to more connections.”

The Hoverbus circular route includes:

  • Portsmouth’s The Hard Interchange, for coach connections, Portsmouth Harbour rail station, Gosport Ferry, Gunwharf Quays, Historic Dockyard and Spinnaker Tower.
  • Commercial Road, for Portsmouth & Southsea rail station, Cascades Shopping Centre, The Guildhall and City Museum.
  • Bus stops for the University buildings.

Passengers are able to alight and board at all stops all along the route.

First Solent’s Commercial Director, James Eustace, said: “We’re very proud to be appointed to run this flagship service, connecting people across Portsmouth and Southsea to the Isle of Wight. HoverBus is a fantastic bus option that that anyone can use – not just passengers for the hovercraft. We look forward to delivering a first-class service for all.

We are also keen to see how we can enhance this service, as well as encouraging wider uptake of the bus, hopefully attracting customers across the city not just those passengers traveling between Southsea and the Isle of Wight.”

Refurbished Manannan returns to service with brand new facilities for passengers and crew

Refurbished Manannan returns to service with brand new facilities for passengers and crew

Manannan Forward Lounge

The Isle of Man’s Steam Packet Company’s (IOMSPC) High Speed Craft Manannan has had a Spring refurbishment to coincide with the start of its return to Liverpool sailings on Friday 22nd March.

The upgrade in facilities includes a brand new children’s play area, upgraded pet kennels, a larger retail area and an enhanced crew area. With the addition of the brand-new Manxman and the newly refurbished Manannan, IOMSPC is the pride of the Irish Sea with two of the best-appointed and quality vessels in the region.

Passengers choosing to sit in the popular forward cabin on sailings to and from Liverpool will be able to relax in newly upholstered seating. The forward lounge has also received new floor and wall coverings, giving the Manannan a fresh and modern feel.

Children travelling on board will be pleased to see the addition of a new play area, complete with purpose designed Tigerplay soft play equipment and seating for adult supervisors.

For those travelling with pets, the Manannan has much larger and more comfortable kennels with an increased number available to help cater for the demand on the Liverpool route. Final touches are being made to the kennels and they will be ready for use in due course.

As well as passenger comfort, the refit has taken consideration of crew needs with a larger and much improved crew mess to enhance the working environment.

Our crew and staff are proud to provide the highest level of service in the British Isles and our vessels are the envy of the Irish Sea,” said Brian Thomson, IOMSPC Managing Director.

We’re pleased to complete our renovations and invest in giving Manannan a modern and fresh overhaul to provide our passengers and crew with a higher quality and comfortable experience on board. We are looking forward to welcoming passengers on board for our first sailings to Liverpool for the summer season.

The upgrade is the second and final phase of the refurbishment, following last year’s refit of the bar, Premium and Executive lounges, and other passenger areas. 

Sailings to Liverpool get underway on March 22nd. From March 22nd to March 28th, Manannan will head to Liverpool light ship in the morning to undertake berth trials and PECs. This will mean it departs one hour later for its daily return sailings to the current Landing Stage terminal in Liverpool.

  • Douglas to Liverpool 15:00hrs  – Sailings will now depart at 16:00hrs
  • Liverpool to Douglas 19:15hrs – Sailings will now depart at 20:00hrs

Manannan successfully berthed at the new terminal for the first time last week. Further berthing trials, which are a mandatory safety procedure, will take place to ensure IOMSPC captains become accustomed to the new berth at all tide levels.

Manannan will require minor modification, which will be carried out on the island, to the port superstructure to accommodate the new terminal’s Passenger Access System.

The new terminal building will soon be handed over to IOMSPC to undertake final fit-out, install equipment and support staff while they become familiarised with the facility. The opening for the new terminal will be confirmed in due course.

For more information and to book Liverpool sailing visit the IOMSPC website.

Maritime Minister Lord Davies of Gower discusses the future of shipping on a visit to Wightlink

Maritime Minister Lord Davies of Gower discusses the future of shipping on a visit to Wightlink

Maritime Minister Lord Davies of Gower and Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield discuss the future of shipping

Wightlink welcomed Maritime Minister Lord Davies of Gower to its port in Portsmouth to discuss the company’s vision to reach net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible through powering its fleet with sustainable energy. The Minister and Department for Transport officials toured Wightlink’s ferry St Clare and met crew on the Bridge.

Wightlink already operates England’s first hybrid energy vehicle ferry, Victoria of Wight, which entered service in 2018. It uses both powerful batteries and conventional diesel generators as it sails between Portsmouth and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. The company is now ambitious to build all-electric ferries, with zero carbon emissions, once shore power can be supplied to recharge the batteries after every crossing.

“The Minister was interested to hear about our plans for the future of our fleet,” says Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield. “We are excited at the prospect of reaching net zero and are ready to commission new ferries once we are assured that electricity can be available at our ports.

“Wightlink is currently installing solar panels to generate power from sunshine and more EV charging points. It is also ramping up its recycling programme and reducing food miles.”

Wightlink supports customers with visual impairments to travel by ferry

Wightlink supports customers with visual impairments to travel by ferry

Sight for Wight CEO Lisa Hollyhead with Wightlink Port Operations Lead Mike McHale at Ryde Pier

Finding your way around Wightlink’s ports is now easier for people with visual impairments.

The ferry company has teamed up with Isle of Wight charity Sight for Wight to produce and install special QR codes at the entrance to each port. When an individual scans the code with their mobile phone, they will get an audio and video description of the layout of the terminal so they can walk around it with confidence.

More than 50 locations on the Island have now signed up to place the QR codes on their premises and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police have also taken up the initiative.

Sight for Wight’s Chief Executive Lisa Hollyhead came up with the idea of QR codes with information after Covid restrictions meant many shops made changes to their premises to allow for social distancing and regular customers with visual impairments suddenly had problems getting around.

“Ferryports are busy places so it’s important for all customers to know where to buy tickets, how to find the toilets and where to queue to board their sailings,” says Lisa. “We are pleased that Wightlink has come on board with our Hello Everyone initiative.”

Details about the scheme and the QR codes are available on Wightlink’s website

Wightlink Commercial Director Phil Delaney adds: “We want everyone to feel at home in our terminals and be able to find their way around. This is an excellent idea and we are very happy to install the codes at all our ports.”

P&O Ferries leads the way on the decarbonisation of its fleet

P&O Ferries leads the way on the decarbonisation of its fleet with emission reduction and pioneering fuel efficiency measures

  • P&O Ferries cut almost 50,000 tons of carbon emissions from its operation in 2023 with the introduction of a new hybrid ferry and its new dedicated initiative to reduce fuel consumption – the Fleet Support Centre for Fuel and Energy Efficiency.
  • This follows a reduction of over 85,000 tons in 2022, achieved through partnerships with other operators to enable the company to sail less frequently – and other measures to improve the technical efficiency of its vessels.

P&O Ferries has today shared promising results from its new fuel and energy efficiency initiative following significant measures to reduce carbon emissions in 2023. The introduction of P&O Ferries’ new dedicated Fleet Support Centre for Fuel and Energy Efficiency, alongside the introduction of the new hybrid ferry P&O Pioneer, has contributed to a reduction of almost 50,000 tons of carbon emissions from the fleet during 2023.

P&O’s Fleet Support Centre for Fuel and Energy Efficiency

P&O’s Fleet Support Centre, based at the company’s Dover headquarters, uses the latest SmartShip technology and fuel meters onboard each ferry. This gives the company a wealth of new data that can be used to track and reduce fuel and energy consumption. The ability to see granular data on fuel consumption for each route and vessel allows P&O Ferries to investigate any changes in consumption and see the result of efficiency efforts straight away.

The data also gives deep insight into the impact of different variables such as: the weather, operating system, method of operating the vessel and its schedule. Close collaboration with the ship teams  and other stakeholders is critical to the success of fuel reduction in using the data to optimise vessel performance.

Since the rollout across the P&O Ferries’ fleet in recent months, the Fleet Support Centre’s new approach has reduced fuel consumption and related emissions on key routes during 2023, with further fuel reductions of 5% expected for 2024.

Examples of the initiative’s results so far include:

  • On the Hull-Rotterdam route, a change in speed and consumption was noted as the vessels adjusted to keep on schedule. A slight adjustment to the schedule allowed the vessels to keep to a consistent speed and resulted in a fuel reduction of 3.6% ton per leg.
  • On the Larne-Cairnryan route, the two vessels were showing different fuel consumption despite operating the same route. Deeper analysis of their operating systems and the route showed a 7% decrease in fuel consumption in 2023.
  • On the Dover-Calais route, the new system allowed P&O Ferries to find the most effective way to operate its new hybrid ferry P&O Pioneer, which uses a technologically advanced system with battery packs that optimises efficiency and significantly reduces emissions. This new approach ensures the vessel consumes the least fuel necessary for effective operations.

P&O Pioneer’s impact on emissions

P&O Pioneer was introduced on the Dover-Calais route in June 2023. The vessel’shybrid technology and innovative double-ended design (meaning that she does not need to turn around to leave the port) means that she uses up to 40% less fuel per crossing compared to our other vessels on the Dover-Calais route. This reduces carbon emissions by 6.49 tons per crossing – this is broadly equivalent to driving an average diesel car for 23,500 miles. P&O Ferries’ second hybrid ferry, P&O Liberté will come into service in March 2024, completing the replacement of the oldest generation of vessels in the company’s cross-Channel fleet.

Owen Barry, Director of Maritime Operations at P&O Ferries, said:

“P&O Ferries is committed to decarbonising its operation and our two new hybrid ferries, P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté have shown that we are a step ahead in reducing our fuel consumption and related emissions. But for us to continue to drive down our emissions we have taken steps to digitalise our entire fleet so we have useful and reliable data on how our vessels are performing.

“We believe that our approach is leading the sector by combining the latest technology with a dedicated, experienced in-house team who work in close collaboration with our crew to get the best performance from every vessel in our fleet. We have already seen a solid reduction of fuel compared to 2022 and we expect another 5% decrease during 2024.”

Pet cabins to be available on Commodore Clipper this summer

Pet cabins to be available on Commodore Clipper this Summer

(29 January 2024) CONDOR is introducing pet friendly cabins onto a second vessel to reflect the popularity and positive feedback received from passengers.

Following the installation of six cabins on Condor Islander for the ship’s entry into service last November, the company is to convert a similar number on Commodore Clipper for the start of the Summer season.

John Napton, Condor’s CEO, said: ‘We are seeing more pet travel in recent years and the reaction from passengers travelling on Islander has been overwhelmingly positive, so we have listened and are now extending this to Clipper.

‘Our figures show that in 2019, we carried 12,700 pets on our routes from the UK to Jersey and Guernsey and inter-island, whereas in 2022 that figure had soared to 16,600, an increase of 30%.’

The six cabins on Clipper will each feature hard, laminate flooring and an outside deck will be accessible for exercise. Pets can still be carried in a vehicle or appropriate carrier on the car deck on Clipper, Islander, along with Condor Liberation and Condor Voyager.

‘Condor is continually investing in its fleet and services and an important part of this is listening to our passengers. We anticipate that the cabins, which will be converted in time for the busy Summer, to be very popular,’ added Mr Napton.

‘Duck Tail’ installation on Brittany Ferries’ Pont Aven

Pont-Aven ‘Duck Tail’ installation could boost flagship-ferry’s fuel efficiency by 10%

Hull model HSVA

(24 January 2024) Brittany Ferries’ flagship vessel Pont-Aven is preparing for important upgrades to her hull. A ‘duck tail’ is about to be added to her stern, as part of her annual technical stop. The work will increase the ship’s length by around 3 metres, improving hydrodynamic performance. It is expected to boost fuel economy by around ten per cent when Pont-Aven returns to service.

Hydrodynamics is an important part of the sustainability jigsaw for any shipping company. Reducing resistance while moving through water cuts fuel consumption and therefore emissions. It’s why sleek design is such an important feature for Brittany Ferries’ newest vessels like Santoña and Salamanca. But it’s also why a Duck Tail was chosen as a retro-fit option for Pont-Aven which began operations in 2004.

The project started with Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations developed by the design office of Chantiers d’Atlantique in France. Engineers first considered the ship’s bulbous bow. A dozen proposed design tweaks were put through the programme, however all revealed little benefit in terms of fuel savings. That meant turning to the stern.

“When we looked at improvements in stern design, results of the CFD simulations were far more promising,” explained Brittany Ferries’ research and projects manager Brice Robinson. “In fact the data pointed to a significant reduction of around ten percent with the addition of a Duck Tail, which was very exciting.”

The next step was to put theory to the test. Brice and his team flew to Germany to a 300m long test pool at the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA) in Hamburg. This was where Pont-Aven’s hull had originally been tested in 2002 by Meyer Werft. Original design drawings for Brittany Ferries vessel, allowed a 7-metre scale model of Pont-Aven’s hull to be re-crafted, complete with stern modifications.

In total, three different duck tail shapes were tested, all of which backed up data from the Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations. “The improvement was obvious the moment the first model took to the water,” added Brice Robinson. “Extending the hull immediately changed the way it sat, flattening the turbulent wake behind the transom* thereby reducing drag around the stern. This should be even more significant when applied to our flagship, as it will help compensate for the additional weight of her scrubber system, fitted in 2015.”

Scrubbers work like a catalytic convertor on a car, stripping air quality pollutants like sulphur and particulates from smoke emissions. Pont-Aven was one of five ships in the Brittany Ferries’ fleet to benefit from a clean-ship investment of around €90 million in scrubber installation, supported by ADEME.

Having identified the most effective duck tail design, work was scheduled to coincide with Pont-Aven’s planned technical break this November. Brittany Ferries has also turned to drive-train partner Wartsila. To boost efficiency further, the partners are investigation improved propeller design. This could lead to a further improvement of around 5% of propulsion efficiency when retro-fitted to Pont-Aven at a later date.

*transon = cross-section of the stern

New Isles of Scilly vessels remain on target for 2026 as contracts signed

New Isles of Scilly vessels remain on target for 2026 as contracts signed

(18 Jan 2024) The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group (ISSG), the primary provider of passenger and freight transport to the Isles of Scilly, has signed landmark contracts with shipbuilder Piriou, which will secure the long-term future of passenger travel and freight supplies to and from the islands.

The signing of the contracts means that two new ships will be delivered in 2026, making journeys faster, more comfortable, and environmentally sustainable, whilst improving reliability.

The Group, which operates passenger and cargo links between Penzance and St Mary’s, as well as an airline with flights to the islands year round, has signed contracts for a new 600-seat passenger vessel, Scillonian IV, and a freight vessel. Brittany-based Piriou has been developing designs for the two vessels since its appointment as preferred ship builder in September 2023, work which will continue over the coming months, with construction to begin in spring 2024. The new passenger ship will provide improved comfort, reliability and speed, whilst the new freight vessel will significantly improve cargo capacity.

The new vessels will be delivered using finance provided by long-term partner to ISSG, Lombard (part of NatWest Group). The solution puts in place modern vessels that will future-proof transport to and from the Isles of Scilly, providing economic certainty for the islands and securing a lifeline link for the community on Scilly.

Stuart Reid, CEO of ISSG said: “Our vessel project team and partners have been working very hard to put in place the final elements of a long-term plan which commenced in 2019. Signing these contracts allows us to provide a strong and sustainable solution that meets the travel and freight requirements of the Isles of Scilly for generations to come. We announced in September that we had selected Piriou as our preferred shipbuilder and have been working with the team to refine our designs and ensure we have vessels that meet, and exceed, the needs of this unique route.

We have put in place rigorous measures to ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget, including appointing project managers to oversee the build at Piriou’s shipyard in Vietnam. I would like to thank both Piriou and Lombard (part of NatWest Group) for the productive and collaborative working relationship which has allowed us to reach this point. My sincere thanks also go to our employees, customers, islanders, and the businesses we support for providing vital feedback on these plans, which have helped us to refine final designs.”

Ian Howard, Chair of ISSG said: “The Group has been serving the islands since 1920 and was set up by islanders to promote the long-term interests of the community. Signing contracts for these new ships represents a continuation of that mission and I am immensely grateful to the project team we put in place to arrive at this outcome.

We are working from a position of financial strength and profitability. Our policy of retaining cash within the business and taking long-term strategic decisions in the best interests of the islands, has allowed us to progress with our plans. We look forward to working collaboratively with all partners, customers and stakeholders to ensure we have two new ships we can all be proud of, helping to secure a long-term future for the Isles of Scilly.”

Vincent Faujour, President of Piriou said: “We have worked closely with ISSG since we were announced as preferred shipbuilder, to develop the most suitable designs and related costings. Signing these contracts means we have reached an important milestone in the project, with the first phase of the build due to start in the coming months.

Being based in Brittany, we are less than 150 miles from Penzance and the islands, and we look forward to building on the long association between this region of France and our friends across the English Channel. Piriou is well placed to deliver these vessels, having extensive knowledge, experience, and expertise with ship building.”

Now that contracts are signed and finance is in place, final preparations will be made over the coming months to ensure works start on schedule in the spring. Both vessels will be built by Piriou in Vietnam, before being transported to Concarneau, Brittany for commissioning. The Group’s existing passenger vessel, Scillonian III, which is currently undergoing her annual schedule of maintenance, has been a workhorse for the islands since 1977 and will continue to serve the route during the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

The new vessels will feature a range of new technologies, helping to improve resilience, comfort and reliability. The new passenger vessel will carry up to 600 people (a 24% increase on current levels) whilst reducing journey times. It will feature roll and pitch reduction systems, thereby enhancing passenger comfort, and is designed utilising modern propulsion technologies that improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact. The vessel is also designed to integrate further enhancements as technology develops.

The new freight vessel will also include a range of improvements on the current vessel, including a much-enhanced cargo capacity and an improved capacity for perishable, chilled and frozen goods, meaning that supplies can be transferred between the mainland and the islands more reliably all year round. The freight vessel will incorporate a passenger lounge with accommodation for 12 passengers.

Contracts between the Group and Piriou were signed following a significant amount of work between parties to refine vessel designs and took into account valuable feedback from consultation with communities on the Isles of Scilly.

There are also advanced plans for a new inter-island freight vessel which the Group will provide an update on shortly following further feedback from the island communities.

Isles of Scilly Travel are the UK’s best ferry route for wildlife spotting

It’s official! Isles of Scilly Travel are the UK’s best ferry route for wildlife spotting for the 2nd year in a row

Marine animals taken from Scillonian III

For the second year in a row, the Scillonian III crossing between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly has been named the UK’s highest diversity ferry route for wildlife spotting by charity ORCA.

A total of 645 individual animals were spotted by volunteers from the decks of the passenger ferry – with common dolphins recorded on almost every survey.

It comes as ORCA, which is dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK waters, completed another season of vital cetacean monitoring surveys on board Scillonian III, owned and operated by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group.

Sharon Sandercock, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Group, said: “Our passengers often tell us their journey on Scillonian III is a huge part of the whole island experience and it’s easy to see why.

“Not only are the views of the Cornish coastline incredible, but the opportunities for spotting wildlife are second to none and make for a truly memorable journey.”

ORCA’s highly-trained marine mammal surveyors conducted 13 surveys from Scillonian III between March and November 2023.

There were a total of 645 individual animals seen – 234 more than in 2022 – including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and fish.

Common dolphins were the species recorded most frequently, on almost every survey, with 495 animals seen throughout the year.

And four times as many Risso’s dolphins were seen this year compared to last year, which may be due to their prey, cephalopods, being more abundant in the area.

The highlights of the year included a feeding frenzy of common dolphins and a breaching tuna, as well as a large pod of common dolphins playing in the bow wave of Scillonian III – a sight enjoyed by the ORCA survey team, crew and passengers.

The surveys were conducted by 39 ORCA volunteer marine mammal surveyors, many of whom are from the local area, who travelled a distance of 1,600km while surveying.

More than 5,000 individual animals have been recorded since the surveys started in 2009, with 16 different species seen. These include killer whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, basking sharks, seals, tuna and leatherback turtles.

The charity tries to replicate the same survey dates each year to ensure the data is comparable and now has a highly valuable dataset collected onboard.

Lucy Babey, ORCA’s Head of Science and Conservation, said: “2023 has shown once again why the surveys we do in this part of the world are amongst the most diverse in all of the regions where we collect data on whales, dolphins and porpoises.

“We are so proud to work with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, placing our incredible volunteer marine mammal surveyors on board to monitor the amazing animals that we see on the crossing between Penzance and St Mary‘s, and we can’t wait to see more wonderful whales in 2024 and beyond.


Total tally of species sighted:

  • Harbour porpoise: 57 animals
  • Common dolphin: 495 animals
  • Bottlenose dolphin: 8 animals
  • Risso’s dolphin: 22 animals
  • Unidentified dolphin: 38 animals
  • Minke whale: 5 animals
  • Grey seal: 6 animals
  • Unidentified seals: 2 animals
  • Tuna: 12 animals

Wightlink supports University of Portsmouth scientists to attract more marine species to Ryde Pier

Wightlink supports University of Portsmouth scientists to attract more marine species to Ryde Pier

Kristy Johnson, Benjamin Hazell, Georgios Georgiou and Abby Easton prepare to install the BioHuts 

Marine scientists from the University of Portsmouth have been underneath Wightlink’s historic Ryde Pier to place new habitats on the 200-year-old structure. 

The students swam beneath Ryde Pier Head close to the FastCat terminal and securely fixed three ‘BioHuts’ to the metal piles. The large cages, containing oyster shells and hessian rope, will remain there for two years and will be monitored for signs of marine life inside. Similar projects elsewhere in the Solent have seen several species of fish and even endangered European eels swimming in and around the BioHuts. 

Project leader, Georgios Georgiou has already been carrying out assessments of the rich seagrass meadows under the Pier: “We need to help the environment as much as possible. Providing new habitats will increase biodiversity by encouraging juvenile fish and cuttlefish to set up home inside them so populations can increase. We expect the cages will quickly become colonised by marine flora, then marine creatures are likely to follow.” 

Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield says: “Wightlink is committed to looking after the environment we sail through every day and we are pleased to support University of Portsmouth marine scientists with their research projects. Our customers and colleagues are fascinated by the marine life of the Solent.” 

Three University of Portsmouth undergraduates took part in the installation with Georgios. They were BSc Marine Biology students Abby Easton, Kristy Johnson and Benjamin Hazell. Earlier in 2023, research student Emma Chappell installed cuttlefish ‘nurseries’ beneath the pier. 

In 2017, Wightlink worked with Sandown-based ARC Consulting to install six artificial rockpools, known as Vertipools™ at Fishbourne Harbour. The triangular-shaped basins are now covered with weed and early surveys found more than 30 species living inside them. 

“Seagrass beds, salt marshes and kelp forests play an invaluable role in the Solent environment,” adds Georgios. “This research will provide us with the information on the health and productivity of these ecosystems, along with initiating conservation and rewilding efforts, that will improve the biodiversity associated with these ecosystems across the Solent.”