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Timeline

1820
George Ward and William Fitzhugh of Cowes establish the Isle of Wight Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the first steamer service between Cowes and Southampton.

1826
Southampton introduces its own ferry service to Cowes, known as the Isle of Wight Steam Packet Company.

1827
The two firms begin to co-ordinate their operations after a year of commercial warfare and introduce a common timetable in 1928. By 1860 the two companies had a combined fleet of six steamers and were in a healthy financial state.

1860
A new company, the Southampton, Isle of Wight & Portsmouth Improved Steamboat Company was formed in March 1860 and brought 2 modern steam deck saloon steamers into service the following year.

1861
This new threat persuaded the established operators to join forces. A new Board of Directors was formed and on the 10 September 1861 the Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited was formed.

1865
The assets of the Improved Steamboat Company were acquired in May this year. Regular services to East Cowes were discontinued and replaced by a steam launch linking East with West Cowes packet steamers.

1868
The Company purchased the Cowes Floating Bridge Company and retained control until 1901 when it was compulsory purchased by the local councils.

1885
The Company branches into tug ownership by purchasing the New Southampton Steam Towing Company, an activity that has played a major part in its success.

1908
The Bournemouth & South Coast Steam Packets Ltd was purchased and considerably strengthened the Company's scheduled and excursion services to the west.

1912
SS Titanic, the pride of the White Star Line, departs Southampton Docks assisted by the Company's tugs, on her fateful maiden voyage across the North Atlantic.

1914 - WW I
A proportion of the fleet is requisitioned by the armed forces. The PS Princess Mary and the PS Stirling Castle are lost in action.

1931
MV Medina III breaks tradition. It was diesel powered with no paddle wheels - the first motor passenger vessel on any of the three Isle of Wight routes.

1933
An experimental high speed service is started using the 11 seater 'sea coach'. It operated until 1938.

1935
The famous red funnel and black top was uniformly adopted across the entire fleet and the abbreviated name, Red Funnel was born.

1936
PS Gracie Fields is the last paddle steamer to be built for the Company.

1939 - WW II
Once again much of the fleet was pressed into military service and losses were suffered. The PS Gracie Fields, PS Her Majesty and the tug, Sir Bevois, were lost in action, and the PS Lorna Doone and the PS Balmoral returned in such poor condition that they had to be scrapped.

1946
Red Funnel purchase the Bournemouth operator, ship builder, repairer and engineering firm Cosens & Co Ltd, after rumour of a rival take-over.

1950's
Plans are developed for the first purpose-built car ferry to be introduced on the Cowes to Southampton service.

1959
The motor vessel, Carisbrooke Castle, began service as the first purpose built car ferry. Ferries of this class gradually replaced the excursion vessels with the final vessel, Balmoral II ending its service with the Company in 1968.

1968
Red Funnel acquire ownership of shipping and transport firm, Vectis Transport Ltd.

1969
A high speed service is re-introduced using Italian built hydrofoils to counteract a hovercraft service started in 1966 between Southampton and Cowes by British Rail's Seaspeed Ltd. The latter was withdrawn in 1981 and the Cowes to Woolston Shipyard commuter hovercraft service was acquired in the same year.

1974
A new flagship, MV Netley Castle, begins service as the first roll-on roll-off vehicle ferry.

1985
MacTay Marine of Bromborough complete two new 35 tonne bollard pull tractor tugs for Red Funnel Towage.

1989
Under threat of a hostile take-over by Sally Line, the Red Funnel Group is acquired by Associated British Ports Holdings plc.

1991
A £3m investment in two ground-breaking Hi-Speed catamarans revolutionises high speed travel. Two hydrofoils are sold and vehicle ferry services into West Cowes are discontinued. Andover Transport Ltd, the mainland haulage operator is sold.

1992
Red Funnel Holidays is created to sell ferry inclusive holiday packages.

1993
Two state-of-the-art 'Raptor' class passenger vehicle ferries are ordered from Ferguson Shipbuilders in Glasgow for £16m.

1994
MV Red Falcon and MV Red Osprey enter service on the Southampton - East Cowes route. Red Funnel Ferries now owns the youngest fleet on the Solent. MV Cowes Castle and MV Norris Castle are sold to Croatian interests.

1995
A £3.5m order is made for a powerful new tractor tug, 'Redbridge', for Red Funnel Towage. A third 'Raptor' class passenger vehicle ferry is ordered from Ferguson Shipbuilders on the Clyde for Red Funnel Ferries.

1996
MV Red Eagle, the Ferry Division's flagship, enters service on the Southampton - East Cowes route. MV Netley Castle is sold to Croatian interests.

1997
A third 'Solent' class Hi-Speed catamaran is ordered from FBM Marine at Cowes for £3.5m. The Company's Website was launched in July to a receptive market.

1998
Red Jet 3 enters service in time for Cowes Week, a 190 seat Hi-Speed catamaran. The two remaining hydrofoils are withdrawn and sold to interests in Thailand.

1999
Red Funnel Distribution is launched to handle the Group's drop trailer business and FMCG contracts.

2001
Associated British Ports Holdings plc sells the Red Funnel Group to JP Morgan Partners Inc. for £71m

2002
Red Funnel Towage is sold to Australian, Adsteam Marine Ltd, for $25m AU as the group decides to concentrate on its ferry and road transport interests. The Company augments its Hi-Speed fleet by commissioning the state-of-the-art Red Jet 4 from North West Bay Ships, Tasmania.

2003
Red Jet 4 is launched in Cowes by Dame Ellen MacArthur on 18th June and enters service on 23rd June. The Board approves an £11m 'stretch' project for the raptor vehicle-ferry fleet. Contract awarded to Remontowa, Gdansk, Poland. Project to take 3 months per vessel and involves insertion of new mid-section and additional vehicle deck. Post-refit vehicle capacity increased by some 60%. (Red Osprey Sep '03 - Dec '03; Red Falcon Feb '04 - Apr '04; Red Eagle Dec '04 - Mar '05)

2004
Red Funnel's management, in partnership with HBOS purchase the Company from JP Morgan Partners.

2006
In June Red Funnel launched the Steam Coffee Company, its new premium coffee brand.

2007
In February, Red Funnel launched its onboard food brand 'ReFuel' and bar brand 'Bar1861'. In June, Red Funnel is sold by its management team to Infracapital, the Prudential Group's infrastructure fund.

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Red Funnel flag

Blue to mast, green to fly
Red on deck, white on high

Southampton Interactive Port Timeline

RedFunnel Address post@redfunnel.co.uk.

Contact Centre: Bookings Tel (Within UK): 0844 844 9988. Tel (Outside UK): 0845 155 2442. Customer Services: Tel +44 (0)23 8001 9192

Switchboard: Tel +44 (0)23 8024 8500. Fax +44 (0)23 8024 8501.

Registered in England: 002404, VAT number: GB 902 873131. All Rights Reserved, © 2014 Red Funnel (i-c3d68183)

Isle of Wight Port Addresses: Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries, Trinity Road, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6RA | Red Funnel Red Jet Ferries (West Cowes), Fountain Yard, West Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7AR.

Southampton Port Addresses: Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries (Terminal 1), Terminal 1, Dock Gate 7 off Town Quay Road, Southampton, SO14 2AR | Red Funnel Red Jet Ferries (Terminal 2), Terminal 2, Town Quay, Southampton SO14 2AQ.

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Red Jet Hi-Speed service
Southampton <> West Cowes, Isle of Wight
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Service is operating normally

Passenger Vehicle Ferry service
Southampton <> East Cowes, Isle of Wight
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Service is operating normally

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