THE operators of the Sandbanks Ferry have insisted they are doing “everything in our power” to get it back into service – and will reimburse customers who have bought advance tickets.

It is the first time the ferry company has spoken in detail about the problems which put the vessel out of action last month and which are set to keep it out of service until October.

Mike Kean, managing director of the Sandbanks Ferry Company, said: “I speak on behalf of the entire team at the Sandbanks Ferry Company when I express my regret that the chain ferry service has been unavoidably suspended from service.

“The failing of the drive shaft is an entirely unprecedented issue and one which, to my knowledge, has never occurred on any other ferry of this type. The ferry has passed all regulatory and insurance inspections with no such issues highlighted. As the drive shaft assembly is built to last the lifetime of the vessel, it was not amongst the hundreds of replacement parts which we routinely keep in stock.

“The replacement components were sourced and ordered as soon as possible from an approved manufacturer in Sweden. To return the ferry to service as soon as possible, we paid an additional £46,000 to reduce the stated 24-week lead time by more than half. Once the parts arrive in the UK, our dedicated team will be working around the clock to repair and test the ferry with the objective of returning it to full service as soon as possible.

“I would like to thank all of our customers for their continued patience while we work hard on returning the ferry to service. I understand the frustrations and inconvenience the service suspension has caused, which is why we are doing everything in our power to return the ferry to normal service as soon as we can.

“We are all absolutely committed to serving the needs of the local community and will be providing regular updates on the progress of the repairs in order to help ferry users plan ahead for the next few weeks.”

He said it was not possible to use another ferry during the repairs. “Chain ferries are built to order on a two-year lead time, staying in service until the end of their serviceable life,” he said.

“We have carried out an exhaustive search in the hope of finding a similar vessel to provide a stand-in service, but regrettably there are no suitable ferries on the market in a state of good repair, or which could be quickly brought up to a serviceable level.”

He said alternatives such as a foot passenger boat were not possible because the landing slipways used by the ferry were not suitable for most ships.

Last year, a government inspector turned down an application to raise the ferry’s tolls. He noted that the ‘ferry replacement fund’ included in the company’s accounts was not ringfenced and fluctuated in value.

But the company said the fund had since been ringfenced.

It said the company – which recorded a £1.48million pre-tax profit for the year ending March 2018 – made an overall loss in the subsequent year.