Can we have our ferry now?

Finance secretary Derek Mackay in front of the MV Glen Sannox awaiting completion at the Ferguson yard.

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By Hugh Boag

The Scottish government has pledged to deliver the MV Glen Sannox to Arran ‘as soon as possible’.

It follows public takeover of the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow by the government last week after bosses served notice of intent to put the business into administration.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has said details of a ‘robust delivery schedule’ for the Arran ferry and her sister ship, known as Hull 802, will be announced by the end of October by the review board which has been set up.

The MV Glen Sannox is understood by the Banner to be about 75 per cent finished and still needs around nine months work before leaving the yard.

At least three months of sea trials will then be required because of the dual fuel power of the vessel, which has caused so much of the trouble, making the spring/summer of 2021 the earliest before Arran is likely to see the ferry. That is a staggering three years late.

Ferguson was involved in a dispute with the Scottish government over the construction of the two ferries. The yard was owned by industrialist Jim McColl, who could not persuade ministers to pay more than the £97m contract price for the disputed vessels.

The Scottish government will now buy the yard, which employs around 300 workers, if no private buyer is found within four weeks.

Speaking after meeting the new board members at the shipyard on Monday, Mr Mackay said: ‘We have always been clear that we want to complete the vessels, secure jobs and give the yard a future.

‘On Friday, I met with the excellent workforce and stressed the Scottish government’s commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for the yard.

‘Today, I convened the first meeting of the newly-established programme review board and tasked them with establishing a new delivery schedule for both vessels and a revised cost window.

‘This group will help assess the current situation and ensure the effective and efficient delivery schedule of the CMAL ferry contracts as quickly as possible.”

Transport Scotland’s director of major projects Michelle Rennie has been appointed to chair the board on an interim basis. The Scottish government and Scottish Enterprise each have a member on the board. The new team also consists of a ‘turnaround manager’ Tim Hair.

While the CMAL vessels are completed the Scottish government will conduct further work to identify a viable future structure for the yard.

Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said: When the SNP Government tendered for the two new vessels, there were seven bids submitted from yards in England, Germany, Poland and Turkey, alongside FMEL.

‘The tender was for a “design and build” and the range of tenders was from £93 to £99 million. Thus, all yards believed they could deliver on time to their tendered price.

‘Scottish Ministers understandably selected FMEL – there would have been a furore had they not – as the price was commensurate with other bids and a dying yard with only 67 employees would be revitalised, as would the local supply chain, creating and sustaining hundreds of jobs here in Scotland.

‘That FMEL was unable to deliver at the price they offered to design and build at – for reasons they and CMAL dispute – is the reason we are where we are.

‘Ultimately, Scottish Ministers took their original decision in 2014 for the right reasons and are now determined to complete and deliver the MV Glen Sannox for the people who both live on and visit Arran.’

The MV Glen Sannox slips into Clyde after being launched.
The MV Glen Sannox slips into Clyde after being launched.

Derek Mackay adresses the workers at the Ferguson Marine yard after the government take over. NO_B34ferguson02

Board chair Michelle Rennie. NO_B34ferguson03

The Glen Sannox on launch day in November 2017. 01_B47launch10