Glen Rosa launch: What future for Ferguson Marine as hugely-delayed ferry leaves slipway? – Alastair Dalton

Launch of the second of the Port Glasgow yard’s two huge CalMac vessels calls into question what happens next

It had taken shape at Ferguson Marine over more than eight years, but then, in a matter of seconds on Tuesday, was gone – leaving behind questions about the shipyard’s future (and recent turbulent past) as big as the huge slipway it had just vacated.

Glen Rosa’s belated launch could turn out to be the turning point for the embattled Port Glasgow yard. But we don’t know yet whether it’s towards the brighter future wellbeing economy Mairi McAllan talked up as the ship was sent on its way, or whether the yard’s hopes have effectively sailed away with the vessel.

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Ms McAllan, surrounded by female apprentices as she spoke, later pointed to them being the future of Scottish shipbuilding, which she said meant it was “in safe hands”.

The Cabinet secretary said later that her officials had just taken receipt of a bid for new investment from the yard to make it more competitive – which could be vital if Ferguson Marine is to secure a crucial contract to build seven smaller CalMac ferries similar to those it successfully completed in the not-so-distant past.

I also understand it will have to bid for the work rather than receive a direct award, to comply with international competition rules. However, Ms McAllan made no reference in her speech at the launch to Glen Rosa – and sister vessel Glen Sannox before it – being hugely behind schedule and multiple times over budget.

There was also nothing about the shock sacking of Ferguson Marine chief executive David Tydeman two weeks ago over “performance” issues, which senior industry officials told me was “unbelievable”. One said: “That guy is the best you have seen by a country mile.”

Glen Sannox left the yard for the last time last week for further sea trials, with the remaining work, including pipework for its liquefied natural gas fuel system, being completed at a dock in Greenock prior to its scheduled completion in May or June, with an update on this due next week.

If there are no further delays, the ferry is expected to start carrying passengers on the main Arran route to Brodick around August following CalMac’s own trials.

Glen Rosa is due to be finished in September next year. But as the crowd of hundreds – families of workers, locals and curious others – watched it slide away into the Clyde, more than just a landmark for drivers on the adjacent A8 has disappeared. The gap now spells “what next?”

Ferguson Marine’s interim chief executive John Petticrew, albeit a born and bred Inverclyde shipbuilder, and yard board member, is very much a caretaker manager, who has effectively been parachuted in for six months from Canada, where he now lives, to “put my best efforts into getting the vessels out of here as quickly as possible”.

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Will he do things differently from his predecessor? “It’s a matter of forming the right team and having the right plan,” he told me. “People taking accountability for what they’re doing, and bellying [up] to the bar and getting the job done.”

He’ll need to do that and more if his family’s proud maritime history – and that of many others – is to continue in the town.



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