Formed in 1861, and originally called The Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited, the merged company's name remains the longest for a registered company in the United Kingdom. The shortened name was adopted after 1935 when all vessels operated by the company adopted the black-topped red funnel in their livery. Over the years it has carried out voyages between Southampton and France, but now concentrates on two routes to the Isle of Wight.
In 1867 Red Funnel instituted a service crossing the River Medina between East and West Cowes. This service was operated by a series of small launches over the years. The service ceased on the outbreak of war in 1939 when the vessels involved were requisitioned by the Admiralty.
In 1868 the company took over the Cowes Floating Bridge Company and operated the floating bridge until 1901.
In 1885 the company bought the New Southampton Steam Towing Company and operated tugs and tenders under the subsidiary Red Funnel Towage.
In 2002 Red Funnel Towage was sold to AdSteam, later passing to Svitzer Marine.
In 2001 the company was sold to JP Morgan Partners Inc. (now CCMP Capital) by Associated British Ports Holdings, which had acquired the company in 1989 as a white knight to fend off a hostile takeover by the now-defunct rival Sally Lines. In 2004 the company was sold again in a management buy-out backed by the Bank of Scotland for £60 million. On April 12, 2007, the owners of Red Funnel (who include HBOS) announced that they were considering selling Red Funnel. In June of the same year, the company was sold to the Prudential's infrastructure specialist, Infracapital, in a deal valuing the business at more than £200m.
On March 9th, 1997, MV Red Falcon collided with a Dredger, Volox Hansa in heavy fog whilst on route to East Cowes, causing Minor damage to both boats.
On December 21st 2006, the newly-enlarged MV Red Eagle collided with an oil tanker, the Humber Energy in the Thorne Channel, near Southampton Water. No-one was injured, but Red Eagle sustained damage that required it to be repaired before it could return to service.
On March 10, 2006 Red Funnel hit the national headlines after MV Red Falcon collided with the linkspan at the Southampton Town Quay terminal. Eight 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 collision caused a 15-foot hole above the waterline and buckling of the car deck doors.
Due to the buckled car doors, an Ambulance carrying an injured person to a Southampton Hospital, and all the cars and lorries onboard, were prevented from leaving the damaged ferry. The injured patient was transported by lifeboat from the vessel, but everyone else had to remain on board for 7 hours whilst the doors were forced open.
One of the nine injured was said to have been knocked unconscious, while another had broken fingers.
The Raptor Class ferries are the company's flagships. They are the Red Eagle, the Red Osprey and the Red Falcon. The high speed ferries that are currently operated by Red Funnel are the Red Jets 3, 4 and 5. Red Jets 1 and 2 were sold to a different company.
Red Funnel's Red Eagle and Red Jet 4 were featured in both Ship Simulator 2008 and Ship Simulator Extremes. In game, they remain faithful to their real life counterparts; obviously, Red Jet 4 is faster than Red Eagle.
Logos and Livery
Red Funnel have used several different logos over the course of their operation. From 1969 until 2001, The company used a 'Solent' Logo, which has now been replaced by the current logo. In addition, most of the ships fly the company flag. Between January 2009 and January 2010, Red Osprey was painted yellow on her port and starboard sides to celebrate the launch of a new IKEA store in Southampton. During this time, she also had a service in which Isle of Wight residents could order items from the Southampton store and have them carried by ferry. After the year had passed, she was repainted back to her ordinary Livery.
- Red Funnel Celebrates 150 Years of Service, Isle of Wight Chronicle, 7 September 2011