Sole challenger for CalMac contract confirmed
The news confirms a Scotsman exclusive in April that the contest had attracted just two bidders, despite the Scottish Government extending the deal from the previous six years in an attempt to attract more competitors.
Mr Mackay said CalMac Ferries and Serco Caledonian Ferries had passed the pre-qualification stage and would be invited to submit final tenders by December.
The winner is expected to be announced next May and the contract will start on 1 October 2016.
Serco won the NorthLink contract for ferries to Orkney and Shetland three years ago, sparking a strike by unions about changes to workers’ conditions.
Mr Mackay said: “The award of this contract will be an incredibly important moment for the island communities served by these lifeline ferry services.
“The Scottish Government will provide up to £1bn of funding to support the enhancement and development of these services, in addition to fares revenue.”
A ferry expert told The Scotsman in April the lack of interest from other firms was because CalMac was too small-scale and specialist an operation.
He said it used smallish ferries when much of the industry operated larger vessels, with more potential for on-board sales.