Red Funnel or The Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited is a British company.
The company originally operated a paddle steamer ferry service between Cowes, Isle of Wight and Southampton, England. In 1931 it introduced its first diesel ferry, the MV Medina III. Ferries have steadily increased in size to the current Scottish-built Raptor class operated between East Cowes and the Town Quay in Southampton. The company also operates highspeed, passenger-only catamarans between Town Quay and West Cowes. Between 1969 and phasing out during the 1990s, this route had been served by Italian-built hydrofoils.
During its history the company operated other routes connecting the Isle of Wight and mainland England, but today services are concentrated on their core Southampton–Cowes routes. Alternative routes are today operated by other companies. Red Funnel's main rival is Wightlink whose services operate from Portsmouth and Lymington. They operate one high-speed passenger ferry route and two vehicle ferry routes. The other major Solent ferry company, Hovertravel, operates passenger hovercraft from Southsea. Both provide a frequent service to the Isle of Wight, but apart for special services provided during events such as Cowes Week they do not dock in the same ports.
In 2001 The company was sold to JP Morgan Partners Inc. by Associated British Ports Holdings, which had acquired the company in 1989 as a White knight to fend off a hostile takeover by Sally Lines. In 2004 the company was sold again in a management buy-out backed by the Bank of Scotland for £60 million. The company was sold from HBOS to the Prudential's infrastructure specialist, Infracapital, in a deal valuing the business at more than £200m in June 2007.
The company's flag is divided diagonally into quarters of (clockwise from the top) white, green, red, blue. This derives from the company's four original steamers: The Pearl, The Emerald, The Ruby and The Sapphire. The current strapline of the Red Funnel The Isle of Wight Specialist which replaced: The Original Isle of Wight Ferries.
On March 10 2006 Red Funnel hit the national headlines after one of their car ferries, the Red Falcon, collided with the linkspan at the Southampton Town Quay terminal. Five passengers and one crew member were injured and significant damage was caused to the Southampton end of the Red Falcon and to the linkspan. The accident occurred 9 years and 1 day after the Red Falcon was in collision with the dredger Volvox Hansa in Southampton Water with limited visibility due to fog. The collision caused a 15-foot hole above the waterline and buckling of the car deck doors but no passengers or crew were injured.
The Red Eagle collided with Humber Energy in the Thorne Channel, near Southampton Water, on the evening of Thursday December 21 2006. Coastguards said nobody was injured and neither vessel was badly damaged. Richard Pellew, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: "Having examined the minor damage sustained to the Red Eagle we are advising Red Funnel on the repair work the ferry needs before it can resume normal service.
On April 12 2007, the owners of Red Funnel (who include HBOS) announced that they were considering selling the Red Funnel. On June 6 2007 it was reported in the news that Red Funnel has been sold to Infracapitalat a price topping £200m.