The Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development is replacing vessels regarded as being close to the end of their working lives on both the Strangford Lough and Ballycastle-Rathlin Island services.

Cammell Laird, Birkenhead has been selected from six short-listed yards to provide a replace‑ment for the 260-passenger/20-car Strangford Ferry, built by Verolme, Cork in 1969. Due for delivery in 2016, the new vessel will serve the crossing from the picturesque village of Strangford, a designated conservation area, to Portaferry on the Ards Peninsular. The eight-minute ferry trip saves a road journey of 47 miles, and the new vessel will join Portaferry II (pictured), which cost £2.1 million in 2001 when completed by McTay Marineon the Mersey.

Contracts for a replacement of the 164-passenger/six-car Canna, built on the Clyde in 1976, which has maintained the Rathlin Island service with 45-minute crossings in either direction on charter from Cal Mac since 1997, are expected to be finalised during Spring 2015. Operated by Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd, Canna is supported by 98-seat passenger vessel Rathlin Express, which completes the journey in 30 minutes.


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