Clyde shipyard to make history with dual-fuel CalMac ferries

A Scottish shipyard saved from closure two years ago is pressing ahead with work on two new ferries which will achieve a first in British shipbuilding.

Jim McColl bought the Port Glasgow shipyard in 2014. Picture: Sandy Young
Jim McColl bought the Port Glasgow shipyard in 2014. Picture: Sandy Young

Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow will produce the first domestic vessels designed to run on two different types of fuel.

Two new roll on, roll off, ferries destined for routes across Scotland’s west coast will include engines able to run on both diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Such dual engines reduce operational inefficiencies and reduce fuel demand. They have already been adopted by ferry operators in northern Europe in response to tighter emissions regulations.

The boats, both 102m long, will cost £97 million to complete and are due to enter service in 2018.

The ship’s innovative engines will be provided by Finnish marine engineering firm Wartsila, which has a manufacturing base in nearby Renfrew.

The company will also provide technical assistance when the machines are installed.

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Both ferries were ordered by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), the partner company of CalMac Ferries, which is ultimately owned by the Scottish Government.

Liam Campbell, managing director of Ferguson Marine Engineering, said: “This project highlights the fact that high-end, technologically advanced commercial shipbuilding is again present in Scotland.

“We value Wartsila’s contribution as an important partner, not only in providing us with the latest dual-fuel technologies, but also through its comprehensive range of project support competences.

“The project is at the forefront of marine engineering within the global ferry sector.”

Ferguson Marine was bought in August 2014 by Clyde Blowers Capital, owned by billionaire Jim McColl, when it went into administration after experiencing “significant cash-flow pressure”.

Mr McColl announced an £8m investment programme to upgrade facilities at the Port Glasgow site with a view to taking on oil and gas and renewable energy fabrication contracts.

He also said the workforce would be expanded, potentially reaching 300 in the long term.

It was revealed last year that McColl had scouted the 1,000ft-long Inchgreen dock in Greenock as a potential site to extend the capacity of his operations on the Clyde.

Fergusons is the last yard on the river which builds civilian ships, with the BAE-owned Govan and Scotstoun sites relying on defence contracts.