A spokesperson for the DRD said, “There are likely to be delays for Strangford Ferry passengers this May Day weekend as the smaller vessel has been taken out of service.
“This is due to an unexpected degree of corrosion on the vehicle ramps being discovered during its annual refit in February.
“Unfortunately the vessel cannot return to service until the ramps have been replaced. Efforts to purchase or lease another vessel as an alternative to repairing the MV Strangford were unable to find a suitable vessel which could have been brought into service at short notice.
“Currently we are trying to appoint a manufacturer and once this process takes place work on the ramps will begin. It is expected that the MV Strangford will be back in service later Summer 2011 at the earliest.
“To help minimise the delays, the working ferry, the MVPortaferryII, will run off schedule on a load and go basis when necessary, so there will be more journeys. Also additional stafff will be available to help customers preparing to take the ferry and manage traffic in both Strangford and Portaferry. “
The main Strangford ferry carries 28 cars and 260 passengers. The smaller ferry (which is out of service) carries the same passengers and 20 cars.
Previously, in describing the holiday arrangements, the Strangford Ferry Service alerted customers to the potential for some delays for passengers over the Easter and May Day weekends. This was due to ongoing refit work on the additional ferry which is usually brought into operation at peak times.
A spokesperson reported, “The larger vessel, the MV Portaferry II, will be in operation over the holiday period and to increase the frequency of the service over this period the ferry will run off schedule on a ‘load and go’ basis when necessary.
“Additional staff will be available to assist customers preparing to take the Ferry and manage traffic in both Strangford and Portaferry, however queues are likely and passengers may experience a wait to board the Ferry.
“Variable message signs will be in place in Downpatrick, Newtownards and Millisle, and a new, free SMS text messaging service will be available to update passengers on problems with the Ferry Service. Over Easter the SMS service will be used to advise the public of waiting times at busy periods.
“To register for the SMS text service text “FERRY” to 66101. To stop receiving SMS text “STOP” to 66101.
“The Ferry Service apologises in advance for any inconvenience caused and urges the public to bear this in mind and plan their journeys in advance to incorporate likely delays.”