Ferry scandal Scotland: Transport minister fails to confirm delayed Ferguson Marine ferry will be delivered on time by early 2024

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth was unable to confirm the second of the two long-delayed and overbudget ferries being constructed at Ferguson Marine will be delivered on time.

Ms Gilruth, answering a question on Tuesday from Scottish Conservative MSP Edward Mountain about the CalMac fleet’s resilience over the next two years, was asked whether she could guarantee hull 802 would be delivered in early 2024, as is the current public plan for the vessel.

Hull 802 and 801, named Glen Sannox, are more than six years’ late and significantly over budget at a cost of at least £300 million. The Glen Sannox is set to be delivered by May.

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Asked whether 802, the delivery of which is highly dependent on the construction and commissioning timetable of the Glen Sannox, would be delivered on time, Ms Gilruth refused to say.

Hull 802 is being constructed at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.Hull 802 is being constructed at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.
Hull 802 is being constructed at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.

She told MSPs: “Since May 2021, the Government has bought an additional vessel the MV Loch Frisa, which is operating on the Oban to Craigmure route. We’ve chartered the MV Arrow, we’ve made significant progress in relation to construction of vessels 801 and 802.

"We’ve commissioned two vessels for Islay, we’ve confirmed the award of the contracts for two new vessels for the Western Isles and the Little Minch route, supported by an additional £115m of investment.

"Ministerial responsibility for Ferguson’s sits within a separate portfolio, but we remain absolutely committed to the completion of those vessels and supporting our island communities that rely on that type of vessel.”

The potential for a further delay to the delivery of the two ferries is well known. In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, ferry procurement body CMAL’s chief executive Kevin Hobbs said he was “concerned it [delivery dates] might slip a bit more”.

He said: “I think we are anticipating a bit more slippage, but we don’t know at the moment. I am concerned it might slip a bit more. We had disagreements on delivery dates with FMEL [Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd] where we were years apart. We’re not weeks apart from them, but we’re not six months apart either.”

Mr Mountain, commenting after the exchange in Holyrood, said: “Jenny Gilruth was notably unable, or unwilling, to give an answer to how the Scottish Government proposes to deal with the next two years of unreliability predicted by CalMac’s chief executive.

“I specifically asked whether 802 would be on station and operational by early 2024, as announced, but she refused to give that guarantee, saying only that she ‘remained absolutely committed to the completion of these vessels’. That’s simply not good enough when this ferry is already six years’ late.

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“Nor could she assure islanders that a ferry could be rented or chartered if necessary. For 16 years, this Government has been looking for ferries to rent – the fact that they couldn’t do that should have suggested to them that they should get on with building them.

“But under this Government we’ve seen the ten-year-old ferry plan left on the shelf and ignored. Islanders need greater urgency and finally to receive the lifeline service they deserve, and on which they depend.”

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