Ferguson Marine ferries fiasco: Glen Sannox completion delayed another two months to July

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Màiri McAllan says latest setback for CalMac vessel now due to be finished exactly six years late is “unacceptable”.

Completion of the long-delayed Glen Sannox ferry has been delayed again to the end of July, the temporary boss of the Ferguson Marine shipyard has announced.

The update from interim chief executive John Petticrew comes weeks after he admitted within days of being appointed: “There undoubtedly are some challenges regarding the completion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) system by May 31.”

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He told MSPs in a letter on Friday that work meant handover of the ferry for Arran “was now targeted for the end of July.”

Glen Sannox at the Inchgreen dock in Greenock on April 12 while it is being completed. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)Glen Sannox at the Inchgreen dock in Greenock on April 12 while it is being completed. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)
Glen Sannox at the Inchgreen dock in Greenock on April 12 while it is being completed. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)

Mr Petticrew said: “We appreciate and fully understand that there will be disappointment in all quarters, and particularly in Arran, for this further delay.”.

The Scottish Conservatives blamed the further delay on “the SNP’s monumental incompetence”, while Scottish Labour condemned the “horrendous mismanagement of public funds”.

However, Mr Petticrew “remained confident” that sister ship Glen Rosa, which was launched last week, would be finished by September next year in line with the latest timescale.

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Màiri McAllan said: “Today’s confirmation of further delays to Glen Sannox is unacceptable and disappointing, in particular for our island communities and users across the ferry network.

Work continuing on Glen Rosa at Ferguson Marine following its launch at the Port Glasgow yard on April 9. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)Work continuing on Glen Rosa at Ferguson Marine following its launch at the Port Glasgow yard on April 9. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)
Work continuing on Glen Rosa at Ferguson Marine following its launch at the Port Glasgow yard on April 9. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)

“However, I am pleased the interim chief executive considers this to be the final position, with no further delays expected and confirmation that cost forecasts remain the same.

"I will continue to impress on both him and the Ferguson Marine board the importance of ensuring both ferries enter service as soon as possible.”

The latest of a long series of delays to Glen Sannox means the ferry, which was launched prematurely in 2017 with painted-on windows, is now scheduled to be delivered exactly six years late.

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The two vessels, which will be CalMac’s second largest, were ordered in 2015 and were both due to have been completed by the Scottish Government-owned Port Glasgow yard in 2018.

The latest delay also means Glen Sannox is now unlikely to be carrying passengers until October following two months of trials by CalMac – well after the end of the busy summer tourist season.

It is being completed at a yard in Greenock because there is not enough space for both vessels to be moored at Ferguson Marine. Both ferries are due to operate the main Arran route between Troon and Brodick, which is CalMac’s busiest.

They are also four times over their £97 million budget, although Mr Petticrew said he remained confident in the previously-announced cost estimates, of an extra £145.5m-£149.1m for Glen Sannox and up to £150m for Glen Rosa.

Mr Petticrew said: “The installation and commissioning of the LNG system, a first in class for UK shipbuilding, remains particularly challenging.

"An underestimation of complexity, the degree of difficulty of the installation, the lack of available expert knowledge and qualified resources in the UK in relation to marine LNG systems, has disappointingly contributed to further slippage in the progress that we have been able to make in the last few weeks, and consequently our previously proposed schedule.

“Regrettably, this will result in a delay of the delivery of this fully commissioned dual fuel system vessel, now targeted for the end of July 2024.”

He said installation of the LNG system and all non-LNG activities were now due to be completed by the beginning of May.

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Completion of the LNG system so it was “set to work” was due between the middle and end of July, and the ferry was scheduled to be signed off by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulator and certification firm Lloyd’s by the end of July.

The ferries’ dual fuel propulsion system will involve greener LNG used for most of each ferry crossing, with the vessels switching to traditional diesel for manoeuvring in harbours.

Mr Petticrew added: “Action is being taken to confirm a robust schedule for the delivery of Glen Rosa, including utilisation of lessons learned on Glen Sannox, and we remain confident that the previously reported delivery date of September 2025 is achievable, and we remain committed to achieving this day.”

Mr Petticrew, an Inverclyde-born shipbuilder and Canada-based Ferguson Marine board member, took over after his predecessor David Tydeman was sacked three weeks ago over “performance-related issues”. However, industry sources said Mr Tydeman had sorted out many of the problems with the ferries caused by major design and construction mistakes by previous managements.

They portrayed him as a fall guy whose departure had followed tensions with yard chair Andrew Miller.

Mr Tydeman had said in the yard’s previous progress update in February that “completion remains targeted for May 31, although final inspections and trials may require some more time, hopefully weeks and not longer”.

He told MSPs, who questioned him about the update a day later, that he expected the ferry to be handed over “before the end of May or into June”.

Mr Tydeman said the yard “aimed to complete” Glen Rosa “up to three months earlier than the September 2025 deadline” – or by June 2025 at the earliest.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “This latest delay is yet another huge blow to Scotland’s betrayed island communities.

"It means that – after testing – another whole summer season will have gone by without desperately-needed new CalMac vessels being in operation, thanks to the SNP’s monumental incompetence.

“That’s another peak holiday season for hotels, restaurants and businesses completely at the mercy of a decrepit fleet that simply can’t be relied upon.

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"Scapegoats come and go at Ferguson and CalMac, but still no SNP minister has carried the can for a national scandal entirely of their making.”

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said: "Islanders and workers have been let down by the Scottish Government time and time again throughout this fiasco, which seemingly has no end. The one thing lacking from this horrendous mismanagement of public funds has been accountability.

"It is high time the SNP got a grip on this scandal and finally deliver these long overdue ferries."

Scottish Liberal Democrats economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “Oh God, not another one. When will this ever end?"

A spokesperson for Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, the Scottish Government’s ferry owning firm, said: “Whilst it is always disappointing to receive news of further delays, we remain focused on getting Glen Sannox approved by the MCA.”



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