CalMac ferries fiasco: Ferguson Marine shipyard should not be damaged by flak directed at SNP ministers – Scotsman comment

Work on Royal Navy frigates shows there is still confidence in the abilities of Ferguson Marine's staff

It is fair to say that the reputation of the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow has taken a few blows in recent years. What seemed like a simple task – to build two ferries for CalMac – has turned into a disaster of epic proportions with the vessels currently five years late and set to cost about three times the original price. That the Glen Sannox was launched nearly six years ago and still is not ready adds insult to injury.

While much of the flak has been rightly directed at the Scottish Government – as owner of the yard and of Cmal, the body that commissioned the ships for CalMac, they should take the lion’s share of the blame – there are those who criticise the yard itself. And it may still have questions to answer.

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However, the fact that last month work got underway at Ferguson’s on the first of three vast steel units that will form part of HMS Belfast, being built by BAE Systems for the Ministry of Defence, is a considerable vote of confidence in the workforce and their abilities to build ships.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament's public audit committee yesterday, Ferguson Marine’s chief executive David Tydeman struck an optimistic note, saying demand for shipbuilding was currently exceeding the available capacity and that he hoped to win further "significant work” on the Royal Navy’s new frigate fleet and to build vessels to service offshore windfarms.

Shipyards such as Ferguson’s and the skills of the people who work there are of great strategic importance to the UK, while also boosting the wider economy and being important sources of employment. So while the CalMac ferries fiasco is a stain on the yard’s reputation, it should not be a lasting one.

Shipbuilding on the Clyde has a long and proud history. This shambolic episode, which will, we trust, finally be over by the end of next year with the completion of “hull 802”, has unfortunately written itself into that history. Scrutiny of SNP ministers’ actions should continue, but their failings should not detract from the yard’s efforts to restore its good name.



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