Foot Ferry Threat

An important transport link between Shotley, Harwich and Felixstow is under immediate threat.

The foot ferry between Suffolk and Essex will not run from Easter as scheduled unless a buyer can be found.

Current owner Alan Sage is set to retire in April and two potential buyers have failed to seal a deal in order to take over the ferry, which has run on and off for more than 100 years.

The link between south Suffolk and North Essex receives substantial funding from both county councils, along with contributions from Babergh District Council, Suffolk Coastal and Tendring Council.

Almost 15,000 of tourists, cyclists, commuters and day-trippers from Harwich, Felixstowe and the Shotley Peninsula use the ferry, which can carry 12 passengers.

Mr Sage, 64, from Harwich, is hopeful a buyer can soon be found and believes the route has a lot of potential.

“I have been running the ferry for 11 years now and while it has been fabulous, it is time for me to retire," said Mr Sage, who has 40 years experience operating vessels from Harwich harbour. It is an enviable lifestyle but it is time for someone younger to take over.

“I have had a great time meeting hundreds of fascinating characters over the years. We get tourists, cyclists who are doing the 214 mile North Sea cycle route 51 (also knows as EuroVelo 12) as well as locals visiting Shotley, Harwich and Languard Fort at Felixstowe.”

Although the first ferry ran in 1912, a more permanent boat, the Brightlingsea operated from 1925 under 1991, and the current foot ferry, a shallow draught beach landing craft called Explorer 12, has worked the waters for the past 15 years.

“It is a popular, well used ferry,’ added Mr Sage, “but there is room for expansion and enormous potential for it to be a larger boat, which can operate all year round.

“As well as being good for trippers, it has a practical use for commuters getting to Harwich station, an hour into London.”

Mr Sage employs two crew and both would lose their jobs if the ferry ceased to operate. Vessel is currently being made ship-shape and ready for the new season in the hope a buyer will be found. 

Both Essex and Suffolk County Councils have pledged the ferry financial support to help with the running costs for 2015, should a buyer be found.

Anyone interested in finding out more are urged to contact Mr Sage on 07919911440.

By Derek Davis on February 26th, 2015