Scotland politics

Troubled CalMac ferries 'may' be ready next year

Launch of the UK's first LNG passenger ferry Image copyright Mark F Gibson
Image caption The Glen Sannox was launched in 2017 but has not been completed

Scotland's transport secretary has said two new CalMac ferries may not be ready until 2020, and warned it could be even later.

Michael Matheson was giving evidence to MSPs about two vessels being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.

MV Glen Sannox was intended to be in service on the Arran route last year, while an unnamed boat, known as Hull 802, will serve the Outer Hebrides.

Ferguson Marine has blamed design changes and technical challenges.

Mr Matheson told Holyrood's rural economy and connectivity committee that the dual-fuel ships - the first of their kind in the UK - could be sailing next year but he admitted there are "still some questions" about whether this will happen.

He told the committee: "Where we are with these two vessels is simply not where any of us would want to be. We want to see these vessels being utilised and on routes.

"At the present moment the indications are they expect both vessels to be completed next year, one in the earlier part of the year prior to the summer, and one later in the year.

"However, there are still some questions about their ability to keep to those timescales."

Fixed-price contract

The minister said he had not personally visited the Port Glasgow shipyard to see progress on the ferries.

The £97m ferry work was awarded to Ferguson Marine as a fixed-price contract.

The shipyard has sought additional funding to cover "unforeseen complexities" with the project.

Ferguson Marine has also launched legal action against publicly-owned Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), claiming that changes to the "prototype" ferry designs have led to the cost overruns.

CMAL has denied there have been any significant design changes.

West of Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: "What matters to folk is that ferries are delivered - they're clearly way over schedule."

He asked Mr Matheson: "Can you give people living on our island communities any indication as to when they might expect these new ferries in operation?"

The transport secretary described the delays as being "disappointing".

He added: "Last August we had a £3.5m resilience fund provided to CalMac to assist them in maintaining their existing vessels, to try and help improve reliability and we will provide a further £4m in this financial year in order to allow that to continue to be supported, to help mitigate some of the risks associated with vessels going off service."

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