THE last commercial shipyard on the Clyde is competing for the largest CalMac ferry contract for decades, The Scotsman has learned.
Ferguson Marine, which was saved from closure last year and is the only yard left on the lower Clyde, is bidding to build two 1,000-passenger vessels that together are thought to be worth £50-80 million.
I hope Jim McColl’s investment is successfulJim Moohan
The Port Glasgow firm is believed to be up against the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead on Merseyside and one in Poland. The winner is due to be chosen in about a week and announced early next month.
The 100 metre-long ferries, which can carry 127 cars, will serve CalMac’s main Arran route between Ardrossan and Brodick, and the “Uig triangle” between Skye, Harris and North Uist.
Victory for Ferguson Marine would be a major boost to the firm, which was rescued last year by billionaire Jim McColl, who runs Clyde Blowers Capital.
If successful, it is not clear whether the ferries would be built at another site as part of his plans to expand the business. Mr McColl has said he is developing the Port Glasgow yard to build vessels of 150m long.
He has also expressed interest in taking over Inchgreen in Dumbarton, said to be Britain’s largest dry dock.
CalMac’s last big ferries have been built abroad. The £42m MV Seaforth, which took over the Ullapool-Stornoway route this year, was built in Germany, while the £24m MV Finlaggan, introduced on the Kintyre-Islay route four years ago, was made in Poland.
The first of the new ferries, financed by Scottish Government loans, is expected to be completed in about two and a half years, and the second a few months later.
They will be powered by liquefied natural gas, with the vessels they replace being switched to other CalMac routes.
Jim Moohan, chairman of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions in Scotland, said: “This is the first substantial order that Ferguson Marine has had the possibility of winning. I hope Jim’s investment in and support of the yard is successful.”
Mr McColl bought the 112-year-old firm after it went into administration last August. It has built a series of CalMac ferries, including its first two hybrid diesel-electric vessels.
Ministers awarded the yard its first major order a month after the takeover – a £12.3m contract for a third hybrid ferry, which secured the jobs of the 80-strong workforce.
Nicola Sturgeon, the then deputy first minister, said: “This contract shows the rest of the world Ferguson Marine is open and ready for business, with their expertise in low-carbon marine technologies making them a competitive and attractive option when it comes to attracting new business.
“Clyde Blowers Capital have an ambitious and exciting plan for Ferguson Marine and I hope this is the first of many new contracts for the yard.”
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (Cmal), which owns the CalMac fleet on behalf of the Scottish Government, said bids were received in April and were still being evaluated.
A spokeswoman said: “We hope to be in a position to tell the preferred bidder by 31 August. The procurement process is ongoing and is strictly confidential. Cmal is unable to comment on any detail that could potentially jeopardise the procurement process.”