ANY OFFERS: One of the vessels for sale in what operators Severn Link say is purely a "speculative move".
THE Fastcat ferries lined up to run the service between Ilfracombe and Swansea have been put up for sale.
Three commercial websites are carrying adverts for the sister ships named Raparee and Shanklin.
But Severn Link chiefs insist the move is purely speculative.
One of the advertisements describes the vessels as: "Two sister flying catamarans which have recently passed special survey and refurbishment works, including overhauling of all liferafts, buying fast rescue crafts, repainting, fitting of new emergency batteries, renewing of exhaust pipes, blasting and recoating of jet tubes with Belzona."
Severn Link announced last month that the launch of the ferry service across the Bristol Channel would be put back until next year.
Chairman Chris Marrow told the Journal that because of this financial projections had changed.
He said: "It's the investor who holds the mortgages on the boats that has put them on the market — but it's not something that happens overnight.
He said Severn Link was "working flat out" on re-investment plans at the moment, in order to attract funding for the building of landing facilities at Swansea.
He said once this was secured, it would act as a catalyst, allowing the company to draw down pledged grant funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and gain the licence they needed to operate.
Mr Marrow said the speculative sale advertisements were simply a means for the investor who owns the boats "to keep their options open".
He said: "But this is like putting your house on the market, it doesn't mean you're going to do anything about it, you're just testing the market.
"It could take two years before there were any expressions of interest."
He said if an offer did come in for the purchase of the boats, "we'll just have to start looking for new ships".
Robert McFarlane, chairman of Ilfracombe's High Street Traders, said: "I'm disappointed that we haven't been kept informed, having been involved in all the set-up meetings.
"If they're suffering in troubled times, as we all are, isn't it better that we know about it so we can try and offer some help to do something about it."
Town and district councillor Paul Crabb said: "I'm tremendously disappointed, especially after all the hype. All we can do is hope that they sort themselves out in a positive way, as soon as possible."
He added that in the light of the news about Ilfracombe Arts College this week and previous disappointments, the town needed to turn to itself for help.
"The only things we can guarantee will happen, are the things that we make happen ourselves," he said.
"So it's more important than ever that anyone who can help, does everything in their power to make things happen for Ilfracombe."