A NEW ferry service — partly funded with a £50,000 grant of public money — between Cowes and Portsmouth could be launched by the end of August, following several delays to the project.
Paul Duffield, the man behind Nauti Fast Ferries, has won the backing of Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) after he applied to run the service from Trinity Landing. At its meeting last Friday, CHC agreed to consult with its advisory committee and, subject to agreeing conditions, grant Mr Duffield a 12-month licence.
The service will utilise two catamarans capable of carrying 12 passengers, increasing to 40 after they are fitted with detachable cabins.
Prices will be £15 one way and £25 return, and the crossing time around 35 minutes.
After initially hoping to launch the ferry service in the spring, then in June, then during Cowes Week, Mr Duffield said: "We are anticipating starting towards the end of August. We are still looking at a couple of practical matters regarding the use of Trinity Landing and also on the Portsmouth side, which we cannot yet formally announce the berthing for.
"There will be initially two vessels operating an hourly departure service, starting at 5.30am from Cowes. Within a matter of days or weeks, we should be able to offer a through-the-night service too, but our skippers will need to pick up local knowledge first to ensure passenger safety."
Mr Duffield, who is based in Portsmouth and runs his own boat charter firm and a marketing company, was awarded a £50,000 Bridging the Gap grant by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership to help launch the service. He said at least 16 new jobs would be created.
A timetable is due to be posted online at www.nautiferry.com today (Friday).