According to a Treasury statement, the funding would support crossings ensuring medical services and essential supplies such as medicine and food were maintained.
The three ferry companies (Hovertravel, Wightlink, Red Funnel) have been hit by a slump in commuter shipping traffic and cross-Solent tourism over 2020. The UK government has allowed the temporary suspension of competition law so ferry lines can now work together to continue to run essential services in spite of reduced usage during the Coronavirus crisis.
The companies jointly agreed on new limited schedules to maintain "lifeline" services between Portsmouth-Southampton and Isle of Wight (ports Fishbourne and Cowes) during the first national lockdown in March last year.
Some services were brought back as restrictions eased, but ferry operators still reported lower passenger numbers, with Red Funnel announcing 50 job losses in August 2020.
Red Funnel revealed the funding would be used to maintain "lifeline service", but added it didn't expect the support would be enough to offset the growing losses the company had suffered since the start of the crisis.
According to Wightlink, some of its shps were carrying fewer than 12 passengers at a time.
Stephen Paul Barclay (Chief Secretary to the Treasury since February 2020) said that it was vital "no community or region is left behind" during the pandemic.