After an absence of almost 60 years, and following a successful application to the Coastal Communities Fund, the reinstatement of the ferry service between Llansteffan and Ferryside on the Tywi estuary in West Wales will take an historical step forward next week with the award of the boat building contract. This has been made possible due to a grant of £300,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund.
A unique amphibious ferryboat be built by Robust Boats of Solva Pembrokeshire. Designed in Holland, using patented Sealegs technology (www.sealegs.com) from New Zealand it will be a first for Wales and the UK.
Carmarthen Bay Ferries Director Les Jones, who led the tendering process said “This is no ordinary boat. The high tidal range and nature of the foreshore would require an impractically long jetty or passengers wading through shallow water to get to on and off a conventional ferry. There isn’t a boat on the market that meets all our requirements. We wrote a specification for a high performance boat, fitted with retractable wheels and went out to open tender for the design and build.”
“Robust Boats are really delighted to have been chosen as the boat builder for this project,” commented company owner Steve Rees (www.robustboats.co.uk). “Incorporating the Sealegs technology into one of our boats is just the sort of challenge we relish. It will create much needed employment and boatbuilding expertise in West Wales. This design will be of value to other coastal communities in the UK putting us in the market to build more of these unique vessels”
Designer Edgar van Smaalen, M.D. of Bruce Roberts Europe (www.brebv.com/en/) also highlighted the novelty of the design. He said that “Designing a boat which will carry the maximum number of passengers within the weight restrictions of Sealegs technology has been an interesting and challenging project.”
The ferry will begin operating in the summer of 2018 and in addition to ferrying passengers, bikes and pets between Llansteffan and Ferryside will offer boat trips around Carmarthen Bay. The boat will be licenced to operate within 20 miles of any safe Haven, equipped with the latest safety and navigation equipment, manned by a fully qualified crew and have the capacity to carry up to 10 people. The ferry will mean that the villages will be minutes apart rather than the current 18 mile road journey. Llansteffan passengers will also have access to the Paddington- Fishguard rail service via Ferryside.
Coastal Communities Fund project officer, Hywel Lovgreen, commented “Coastal communities share a strong sense of place and having visited both villages it’s truly rewarding to see the incredible potential boost this project will give the local community and economy.”