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The independent CalMac community board is calling on Scottish ministers to urgently accelerate the process for a fleet and port investment programme for Scotland’s west coast and islands ferries network.
The call comes as the fall-out over the news last week that the cost of the new Arran ferry, the MV Glen Sannox, and her sister ship was set to double from the original £97 million contract cost. It they are ever finished at the Ferguson Marine yard at the Port Glasgow it will not be until the end of 2021 for the MV Glen Sannox and the following year for Hull 802.
Board chairman Angus Campbell said: ‘At a meeting in April 2019 with the minister for energy, connectivity and islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, members expressed concern at the lack of transparency for a long-term plan that is required to address an ageing fleet of vessels operating on Clyde and Hebrides services causing increasing disruption to customers and businesses across remote, rural and island communities.
‘Whilst the Scottish government’s intervention in acquiring Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd is to be welcomed, the board learned this week that delivery of Vessels 801/802 is delayed further to late 2021 and mid 2022 respectively. As the ‘major and minor’ fleet ages, service failures are becoming increasingly frequent and on numerous occasions replacement vessels are often not available to provide alternative services. Board members are being asked by their communities if there is a commitment from ministers for significant funding to be made available to rectify these issues.
‘At a community board meeting in November members were briefed by Kevin Hobbs, CEO of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) who provided an overview of the current fleet and outlined a comprehensive vessel procurement plan. Members strongly supported the proposals for a programme of investment from the Scottish Government going forward. An updated assessment of growth in traffic, increased demand, including tourism, and a strategy for ferry services for thirty years and beyond, must accompany future budgetary provision for vessels and ports. The Board calls upon Scottish ministers to commit to publishing a fully supported cross-party Ferries Plan as soon as practical in 2020.
‘Recognition by ministers that urgent action is required will go a significant way to reassure remote and rural communities across Scotland’s west coast and islands that their concerns will be addressed, despite the significant disappointment of the delays to the introduction of the two vessels currently under construction. Community board members, led by the chair, encourage ministers to support CalMac, CMAL and Transport Scotland in their joint task in reversing the decline of the current Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service network and implement a strategy to increase economic prosperity and population growth in vulnerable island and rural communities.
‘The board wholly supports this critical agenda going forward and looks forward to ministers taking decisive action in addressing these increasingly serious issues.’
Meanwhile, it was claimed this week that CMAL was ready to cancel the contract with Ferguson’s back in May, but this was vetoed by the Scottish government. The shipyard, then owned by businessman Jim McColl later went into administration and has now been nationalised to try to get the work finished.
It also became clear that remedial work will have to be carried out on the MV Glen Sannox and her sister ship before any progress can be made on completion. A report by marine engineer, Tim Hair, the turnaround managed hired by the Scottish government said it would take seven months an £12.8 million to remedy these faults before new installation work can take place.
The MV Glen Sannox at her launch more than two years ago. 01_B47front01