Instead of firmly committing the Scottish Government to the dates, Mr McKee simply said the target dates “remain” May and December 2023 for the two vessels.
He also indicated the long-awaited ‘Project Neptune’ report, an independent review into the governance structure of the ongoing construction of the ferries, undertaken by Ernst and Young in 2021 may be published on Thursday ahead of a statement by transport minister Jenny Gilruth.
Hulls 801 and 802 are more than five years late and more than £150 million over-budget after the Inverclyde yard was granted a contract that did not include a full builder’s refund guarantee.
A report by Audit Scotland previously found there was “insufficient documentary evidence” to explain why the contract was given to the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, which has since been nationalised.
Ministers were advised the construction of hull 801, named the Glen Sannox, is “still behind schedule”, with an update report in June warning of several “serious risks” to the project.
Edward Mountain, Conservative MSP for the Highland and Islands, asked whether the Government could confirm whether the two vessels would be delivered on time and to budget.
Hull 801 is scheduled for delivery by May 2023, with hull 802 set to be delivered by the end of next year.
CMAL, the ferries infrastructure body, view the delivery dates as “achievable”.
Mr McKee said the Government was continuing to press the shipyard to “continue to progress the completion of the vessels in the existing timeframe”.
The minister also said work continues to make the shipyard more competitive, with the view for the yard to secure work for new CalMac ferries for the island ferry network.
It follows the Government paying more than £200,000 to a Dutch consultancy firm to tell them how to turn around a scandal-hit ferry shipyard.
HaskoningDHV UK Limited was hired to “identify ways to improve the competitiveness” of the Ferguson Marine yard – three years after it was nationalised.