Ferry firm refuses to pay extra cash amid political row

A state-owned firm buys and leases CalMac vessels. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Scotland’s state-owned ferry firm yesterday insisted it will not pay any extra cash for two new boats being built in a shipyard saved by one of Nicola Sturgeon’s economic advisers.

The chief executive of Caledonian Marine Asset Ltd (CMAL) Kevin Hobbs claimed any increase in costs would be met by the Ferguson yard, which was rescued from administration by businessman Jim McColl in 2014.

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Mr McColl, the Clyde Blowers entrepreneur, is a member of Ms Sturgeon’s Council of Economic Advisers.

At the weekend Mr McColl was reported as saying he was two months away from finalising a formal claim for additional work CMAL has requested on the project to build two ferries for Scotland’s island communities.

Mr McColl said that if CMAL, which buys and leases CalMac vessels, continued to “fail to engage with us we will take them to court”.

The Scottish Government has extended a £45 million loan to the shipyard to ensure work continues on the ferries, which have already been delayed. The Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow won the £97m contract to build the ferries.

CMAL’s Mr Hobbs said delays to the work mean the ferries would now cost “an awful lot more” than £97m.

He told MSPs on Holyrood’s rural economy committee he had been aware there were problems for some time. But he insisted any increase in costs would be met by the Ferguson yard.

He also warned there could be further consequences for the shipyard, saying there are “a number of things at the end of the contract we will have to weigh up”.

He told the committee: “We were advised in July 2017, some 15 months ago, that there were cost overruns.

“Because we have a team embedded in the yard anyway, we knew well in advance that things were not going according to plan.

“I think we need to be very, very clear on the type of contract we tendered for and the type of contract we signed. It is a design and build contract, it is a fixed price of £97m and it has some fixed dates for delivery.”

He insisted it was “known from stage one” that the work to build the two vessels was “a fixed-price contract”.

Mr Hobbs added: “Ferguson Marine, along with everybody else that were bidding for that contract at the time, they are private companies and with a private company there is risk and reward.

“They signed up to that contract knowingly and willingly and as far as we are concerned, £97m is what we have to pay.”