Who will blink first in ferry showdown?

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By Hugh Boag

Arran’s new ferry could face another significant setback with the news that the shipyard where it is being built has threatened legal action against the public paymaster.

Port Glasgow shipbuilders Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) says it is considering the claim due to the ‘repeated unwillingness’ of  Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) – which owns CalMac’s ferries – to discuss additional costs which have arisen in the £97 million contract for the MV Glen Sannox and her sister vessel.

Ferguson says a claim will be lodged ‘within weeks’ to claim back the costs involved due to the unforeseen complexities in building the two prototype ferries which will be able to run on liquid natural gas or diesel.

The MV Glen Sannox is already certain to be a year late before entering service on the main Brodick to Ardrossan route and it is unlikely to be carrying passengers until at least next autumn.

Whether legal action is on the cards or the Ferguson Marine boss Jim McColl is engaged in a dangerous game of brinkmanship remains to be seen as both sides were keeping tight-lipped this week, but it is a new concern for the long suffering Arran travelling public.

Mr McColl has previously claimed design changes have added tens of millions of pounds to the cost of the contact. As a result, Ferguson was given a £45m loan by the Scottish government, but the latest move shows the firm still wants more.

A FMEL spokesman said: ‘Due to the repeated unwillingness of CMAL to engage with FMEL over the additional costs identified due to unforeseen complexities in building the two prototype, first in class, dual fuel liquid natural gas vessels, we are in discussions with professional claims experts and aim to submit a formal claim to CMAL within the next few weeks.’

CMAL was quick to respond with its own counter-claim.

A CMAL spokeswoman said: ‘FMEL is under contract to supply the design and build of the two dual fuel ferries. It is an industry standard design-and-build contract with a fixed price and defined delivery dates.

‘FMEL entered into the contract with full and prior knowledge of the specification and terms of the contract. CMAL fundamentally disagrees with any assertion there have been significant design changes to the vessels.

‘Minor changes have followed the contractual process and costs for these have been agreed with FMEL. These costs have been covered by a three per cent project contingency budget held by CMAL.’


The happy handshakes at the launch of the MV Glen Sannox a year ago seem a distant memory. Photograph: Mark Gibson NO_T48Glen Sannox