Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has announced the award of a contract for the construction of a new £5.7million ferry for Strangford.
The contract has been awarded to Cammell Laird from Merseyside after an open procurement exercise which had attracted interest from shipyards across Europe.
The new ferry is due to be delivered by August 2016.
“The new ferry will replace the existing MV Strangford with a new modern ferry that has been designed specifically for this service,” said Mr Kennedy.
“The new ferry will be built over the next 18 months and, when it comes into operation, will provide a more reliable and efficient ferry service.”
The new ferry will have capacity for 28 cars and 260 passengers and will share the ferry operation on a rotational basis with the MV Portaferry II.
This will provide improved capacity and remove the need for a 7.5 tonne weight restriction that is in place when the MV Strangford is in service.
“The Department currently operates a vehicle ferry service in Strangford Lough between Strangford and Portaferry with two vehicle ferries and a back-up passenger ferry.
The new ferry will replace the existing MV Strangford which is over 40 years old and is approaching the end of its economically operational life,” added Mr Kennedy.
Mr Rob McBurney, Commercial Director of Cammell Laird, said “We are very pleased to have been awarded the contract for the construction of the new Strangford Ferry.
“The company has a long tradition of ship building and we look forward to working with the Department over the coming years”.
Mr Kennedy added that good progress was also being made on the tendering process to build a new ferry for Rathlin.
“Tender documents have been issued to a shortlist of ship builders and we expect these back in February and hope to award the contract in April,” he said.