Ferries are a ‘long way off completion’, MSPs warned

Oban 1 A Calmac ferry, Lord of the Isles, sails into Oban Bay with Kererra and the Hutcheson Memorial in the background.

Calmac ferry Lord of the Isles in Oban Bay. Picture by Bill Heaney

David Henderson of BBC Scotland is reporting that two delayed CalMac ferries are “significantly less than half built”, it has been revealed.

The vessels being built at Ferguson shipyard are £100m over budget and likely to be three years overdue.

A Holyrood inquiry into the delay was told warnings the Inverclyde yard was not set up to build two ferries side-by-side were ignored.

Work got under way before designs were finalised and workforce morale was badly hit by the delay, MSPs heard.

Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited was taken in to public ownership by the Scottish government last year after the ferry problems led to it going into administration.

The row between Jim McColl – the yard’s previous owner and CMAL – the government agency which placed the order, was described as being like the “stand-off at the OK Corral”.

Tim Hair, the recently-appointed turnaround director, said the vessels were “significantly less than half built” and 95% of the ships’ design has not been agreed with CMAL more than four years after the deal was first brokered.

Mr Hair explained that more naval architects and marine engineers have now been hired to do this job.

The shipyard executive said the planning process for changes to the design under the yard’s previous regime was “either absent or badly flawed”.

He added: “The number of £110m [the extra money needed to finish the project] has been arrived at from a very detailed examination of the two vessels and an understanding of the work that needs to be done in order to bring them up to a viable standard.

“It is a very significant number but it is a number that has been based on as rigorous an assessment as we’ve been able to carry out.

“It’s one where I am confident we can deliver the two vessels for that amount.”

Previous owner Mr McColl has strongly refuted the criticism of how his defunct firm Ferguson Marine ran the project and says the blame for the delays lies with CMAL.

Alex Logan, Ferguson convener and workforce representative on the FMEL board, said the contracts were a big boost for the local workers but the yard was, in his opinion, not big enough to build two ships side by side.

He said when the work stopped on the two vessels because both sides could not agree on the design, workforce morale was badly affected.

He said: “They wouldn’t agree on the design so we couldn’t move forward, so it just came to a standstill.

“It was just a stand-off at the OK Corral, who was going to cave in first.

The trade unionist said the workforce did not have the full concept of design and he said this was “like building a jigsaw when you’ve got missing parts. You’re never going to complete it”.

Holyrood’s rural economy and connectivity committee is investigating the construction and procurement of ferry vessels, focusing on the failure to complete the two CalMac ferries on time and on budget.

Committee member and Tory MSP Peter Chapman said people would find the situation “absolutely incredible”.

He said: “How the heck do you get to £110m, which is more than what the original cost was to start from scratch with a pile of steel and nothing?”

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