Ferries to be delayed for another six months and will cost even more money, says Swinney
By Lucy Ashton
The two ferries being built in the SNP nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow have been delayed for a further six months, the deputy first minister has announced.
John Swinney said design gaps and build errors had led to the date of completion of the vessels, which are already five years behind, being pushed back again.
Updating the Scottish Parliament, he agreed that the Firth of Clyde shipyard had been under “poor governance” during a debate between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross about unauthorised bonuses for senior managers at the firm.
The estimated costs for the vessels 801, the Glen Sannox, and the unnamed 802 have gone from £97 million to around £350 million.
A further £6 million will be allocated to Ferguson Marine to complete the ferries, Swinney confirmed, but that figure too is expected to be exceeded.
He said that while work has continued on the ships, “persistent design gaps and build errors mean progress has been slower than planned”.
Swinney said the 801 is now due to be completed in autumn 2023 rather than the end of May 2023 as was previously estimated.
The 802 vessel is now due to be completed in autumn 2024, instead of March of the same year.
Swinney told MSPs: “It is a matter of great disappointment that a further revision to the timescale of delivery has been necessary.
“I welcome the chief executive’s assurances that Ferguson Marine will continue their best endeavours to deliver both vessels sooner than these days.”
Swinney warned costs may rise again due to the delays but added that any further financial needs at the yard will be assessed by the Scottish Government and its ferry procurement arm Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal).
He said: “The challenges and legacy issues being faced by the team at Ferguson Marine cannot be underestimated and, after the appointment last February of the new chief executive, substantial progress has been made in facing these.
“I understand and appreciate why it is so vital that new vessels are introduced into the ferry network, but we must ensure that any vessel introduced is able to provide our island communities with the confidence that it will perform in service and improve the network.
“I have discussed this with the chief executive and made my disappointment at this delay very clear.
“He fully appreciates the critical need for these vessels to enter service as soon as possible to support our island communities, a belief I know all members will share.
“We stand firm in our commitment that these vessels will be completed.”
Neil Bibby, the Labour transport spokesman, said “this is a scandal manufactured by SNP ministers and they all have their fingerprints on it”, before calling for an independent inquiry into the handling of the contract.
Asked about the bonuses, the deputy first minister described them as “reprehensible”, adding that the Government was “assessing what actions we can take in that respect”.
David Tydeman, CEO of Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow, said: “Every week that passes takes us closer to completion on both vessels. The issues that we are uncovering – while generating delays – tend to be smaller scale and less of a challenge to overcome.
“The reset timescale has taken these factors into account, and we believe our delivery programme is realistic and robust.
“It will enable the ship to enter service with everyone having more confidence in her operational reliability in future years, and with dual fuel capability as contractually specified.”
Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “This is a disgrace. John Swinney’s admission that these ferries could both be delayed by a further seven months beggars belief, given they are already more than five years late.
“This is another kick in the teeth to Scotland’s islands communities who have been betrayed at every turn during the SNP’s ferries scandal.
“It is also a kick in the teeth to Scottish taxpayers, who are being fleeced further as the costs of this fiasco soar yet again.
“The scale of incompetence shown by SNP ministers throughout this scandal is breath-taking.
“This will be one of the most enduring and shameful legacies of Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office – so to hear SNP MSPs applaud John Swinney at the end of his sorry statement was truly astounding.”
Following the news that the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 will be delayed by at least another 6 months, bringing yet more disruption for island communities, Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie has criticised Deputy First Minister as being, “a master at defending the indefensible.”
This afternoon, John Swinney told Parliament that the Glen Sannox will be delayed from May to autumn of this year, while Hull 802 will be delayed from March 2024 to autumn 2024.
The Deputy First Minister also confirmed that an additional £6 million will be allocated to completing the ferries. Both ferries are already five years behind schedule and costing more than three times their original estimates.
LibDem Willie Rennie said: “John Swinney is a master at defending the indefensible, but even today he cannot defend this set of circumstances.
“He’s got no idea about the final costs, no idea about the final delivery dates and apparently no idea that these bonuses were being paid, even though his government owns the yard.
“So, what guarantee can he give that this will be the last statement of its kind about these ferries?”
Speaking later, he added: “I cringed when I heard SNP back benchers applauding this debacle. If this is success worthy of praise, I’d hate to see failure.”
The Swinney statement on the ferries is published in today’s issue of The Democrat.