Highlands & Islands

Further delays to delivery of new CalMac ferries

Launch of the UK's first LNG passenger ferry Image copyright Mark F Gibson
Image caption MV Glen Sannox was expected to be ready this summer

The construction of two new ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne has been affected by further delays.

One of the boats is for the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert Triangle while the other is to operate between Arran and Ardrossan.

Ferguson Marine on the Clyde won a Scottish government contract worth about £97m to build the vessels.

It has notified CalMac's parent company, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, of the new delays.

The first ferry, MV Glenn Sannox - which is destined for the Arran-Ardrossan route - was launched last November and was due to enter service this summer but construction delays meant that was initially put back to the winter of 2018/19.

The shipbuilder blamed technical challenges in constructing the dual-fuel ship, which can be powered by liquefied natural gas.

Earlier this year, the ship went into dry dock for work on problems with the bulbous bow section.

Ferguson Marine has now confirmed the ship will not be ready until next summer, a full year behind schedule.

News of the latest delays comes amid calls for increased capacity on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry network to meet greater demand from islanders and tourists.

MSPs are to be informed of a revised timetable for new ferries in the next few weeks.

Image caption Once constructed, the new ferries will be put through two months of sea trials

Transport Minister Michael Matheson described the situation as "disappointing", but said the contract would eventually deliver a boost to west coast ferry services.

He said: "Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd has advised us that the first vessel, the MV Glen Sannox, will now be delivered during summer 2019, and the second vessel in spring 2020.

"While this further delay is disappointing, it is important to focus on the fact that we will have two new ships joining the fleet serving the Clyde and Hebrides network that have been built in Scotland, providing vital support to our shipbuilding industry."

Opposition politicians have criticised the hold-up in the introduction of the dual-fuel diesel and liquefied natural gas ferries.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said the delivery of the new boats had become "a complete shambles".

Mike Rumbles, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "Passengers on the west coast will have a sinking feeling once again when they find out these ferries are delayed."

Scottish Labour's Colin Smyth said it was not the first time there had been delays in completing new ferries.

He added: "Demand for these services is rising and the Scottish government are letting down our island communities once again by failing to deliver the ferries needed to meet that demand."

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