Scottish Government ferry firm would 'absolutely' entrust Ferguson Marine to build more ships

The Scottish Government’s ferry-buying firm said it would “absolutely” entrust Ferguson Marine to build more ferries as it revealed it had agreed with the completion dates of two hugely-delayed vessels at the shipyard for the first time.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal) chief executive Kevin Hobbs told The Scotsman the Port Glasgow yard was “on an upward curve”, describing it as “an awful lot better than it was and going in the right direction”.

He said his confidence had grown since its new chief executive David Tydeman took over in February, leading to Cmal concurring with the delivery dates for Glen Sannox, or hull 801, and unnamed sister ferry 802, for the first time since the ill-fated contract was placed in 2015.

Glen Sannox, earmarked for the main Arran route, is now due to be finished between March and May 2023, and 802, for the Skye-Harris-North Uist triangle, between October and December 2023 – five years late.

Glen Sannox under construction at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow last month. Picture: The Scotsman

Mr Hobbs said Mr Tydeman's predecessor, turn-around director Tim Hair, had announced the first vessel could be completed eight months earlier, which he described as “absolutely unachievable”.

He said he would be happy to place orders for CalMac’s next seven small ferries at Fergusons, pointing to its success in building similar size vessels for the west coast ferry operator over the past decade.

He said: "Would we entrust small vessels to be built at that yard? Absolutely we would.

"But we have to have confidence that they’re not diverting attention to other projects.

The unnamed second ferry, hull 802, taking shape at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow in May. Picture: The Scotsman

"Fundamentally, I haven’t got a problem building ships there, but please get one, if not both, finished before we can entrust you with the next phase.”

Mr Hobbs said the world’s first three diesel electric hybrid ferries, built by Fergusons for CalMac between 2010 and 2014, had proved to be “absolutely excellent” and had performed “exceptionally well”.

He pointed out while smaller than the novel dual-fuel diesel/liquefied natural gas-powered 801 and 802, they had also been also technically challenging.

The chief executive also insisted the yard hadn’t lost the skills needed to build more ferries.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited chief executive Kevin Hobbs said he had increasing confidence in Ferguson Marine. Picture: Susie Low

He said: “There’s a remarkable number of people still there who were involved [in the hybrid ferries project].

"They might have been laid off at a certain point in time, but the core workforce is there.

"We wouldn’t have any problems having small vessels