CalMac ferries botched by Ferguson Marine 'scrapping original build plans'

The partially-built Geln Sannox ferry at Ferguson's Port Glasgow yard. Picture: John DevlinThe partially-built Geln Sannox ferry at Ferguson's Port Glasgow yard. Picture: John Devlin
The partially-built Geln Sannox ferry at Ferguson's Port Glasgow yard. Picture: John Devlin | jpimedia
Ferguson Marine botched a CalMac ferry order by scrapping plans to divide the work between several shipyards, the vessels' owner claimed today.

It came in evidence from Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal) to a Scottish Parliament committee inquiry into why the two ships will cost more than twice as much as planned and be finished four years late.

Cmal chief executive Kevin Hobbs told MSPs their original £97 million cost could now rise as high as £250m.

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The ferries, for the main Arran and Skye-North Uist routes, are not expected to be completed until 2022.

Cmal said only part of Glen Sannox and its unnamed sister ferry were to be built at Ferguson's Port Glasgow yard - just across the road from Cmal's offices.

Cmal vessels director James Anderson told the rural affairs connectivity committee: "This is one of the key areas why this has ended up the way it has ended up.

“The plan was not to build the complete ships in the shipyard, but the hulls.”

He said the superstructure - everything above the vehicle deck - was to be built at two other UK yards, then brought in by barge to be added to the vessels.

Cmal's written evidence to the committee stated: "In the Ferguson tender proposal, the vessel superstructures were to have been fabricated off-site and shipped to the yard by barge, but that methodology was not ultimately followed."

Mr Anderson said that strategy had been devised by experienced Ferguson staff who had subsequently left the company.

He said when Cmal found out, Ferguson said the situation was under control.

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But Cmal told it: “You do have not got this under control. This is a complete change of strategy and it won’t work - you just don’t have the space for this.”

Ferguson Marine just told staff to “get on with it”.

Mr Anderson said: “I find it incredible we are having this conversation about how these people behaved."

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He said Cmal had taken its concerns to the “highest level” at Ferguson Marine, but the firm insisted the situation was under control and asked Cmal to stop writing to them.

But he said that was followed by Fergusons making a £17 million claim for more money “out of nowhere”.

He said at a meeting to discuss it, Fergusons officials “could not even look us in the eye because they knew what was coming”.

Mr Anderson said: “They said the ferries would be built on time, then nearly two years into the contract they suddenly said there is a problem.”

However, he said the contract did not allow Cmal to cancel the contract over the change of strategy.

The ferries are not now expected to be completed until 2022 and cost some £210m compared to the £97m contract price.

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Cmal's written evidence to the committee also stated: "Ferguson deviated from normal shipbuilding practice by commencing fabrication before their design was settled.

"In our analysis, it was this decision that caused Ferguson to run out of money and progress upon the vessels to reach a standstill."



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