A proposal to move Wightlink’s Portsmouth terminal to the city’s international port has been met with stern opposition from the company.

Two Portsmouth councillors have put forward the plans, which would see the terminal move from Gunwharf to the city’s international port. Councillors Alicia Denny and Steve Hastings believe it would remove a large number of vehicle movements from the city centre, and reduce congestion. They also suggested using the land currently occupied by Wightlink for commercial re-development such as a five-star hotel. Steve Hastings said:

“Now as we understand that Balfour Beatty have taken over Wightlink, we thought it would be good time to put this forward as a proposal and see what their thoughts might be on it, to see if they might take that forward.” “That would leave the land free at the other site, which could be developed into something like a five-star hotel, or whatever might be needed for further tourism.” “It has been tested to see what the feasibility of it would be, but they were reluctant to do so previously for obvious reasons, and they’d have to put another boat on, but with new owners that might just be viewed differently, and that’s the thought-process and why we’ve put it forward.”

However, Wightlink’s Chief Operating Officer John Burrows says the move would increase journey times, increase the likelihood of delays and cost more. In a statement, John said:

“Wightlink has no plans to relocate to the Portsmouth International Port. “This is for several reasons. Firstly, it would increase journey times to the Isle of Wight. Wightlink offers customers an attractively short crossing time of 22 minutes for foot passengers and 45 minutes by car ferry. This is a major factor in the success of the company which is a major local employer. “A longer journey time would make the company’s current fleet unsuitable. To run services from PIP, much bigger ships would be required and this could require more than £100m capital investment in new vessels. “Portsmouth Harbour is very busy with commercial and naval ships. While Wightlink ferries are occasionally delayed by port movements at present, moving operations much further inside the harbour would increase the probability of major disruption to timetables. “Services to France and Spain can manage this risk because a delay of 20-30 minutes represents a small proportion of the journey time, but Wightlink’s frequent commuter-based services would be affected to a far greater extent. “Wightlink has a long lease (until 2058) on the Gunwharf terminal and has no reason to move.”

The proposal is set to go before the cabinet, before Wightlink are approached for comment.

jonweeks