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Members of a Holyrood committee this week visited the Port Glasgow shipyard where two overdue and over-budget ferries network are being built.
Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee is conducting an inquiry into the current and future challenges involved in the ferry procurement and construction process following the fiasco over the building of the MV Glen Sannox for the Arran route and her sister ship Hull 802.
The committee is aiming to establish what lessons can be learned as the two new vessels being built at the Ferguson Marine yard are likely to cost around £200m, twice the original contact cost, and be four years late, if they ever actually completed at all.
The inquiry has already heard some evidence on the updated costs and timetable for the completion of two new hybrid ferries, following the Scottish Government’s decision to take public ownership of Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL). Further evidence sessions are scheduled in the coming weeks.
However, MSPs on the committee recognised the importance of visiting the site to speak to the workforce, engineers and senior managers at the Port Glasgow shipyard and view for themselves the current status of the ships.
Committee convener, Edward Mountain MSP said: ‘As part of its ongoing inquiry the committee has heard a range of views about how the current situation whereby there are significant delays in the delivery of the vessels and cost overruns, has arisen.
‘The committee’s visit to the site gave us an opportunity not only to see the ships, but to learn more about the construction process. We were able to speak with current management and, importantly, the workers who have been involved in building the ships.
‘This information will be very helpful as the inquiry progresses, as we aim to produce constructive recommendations for the procurement and construction of new ferries in future.’
The first ferry, MV Glen Sannox was due to be delivered in summer 2018, with the second ferry (vessel 802) slightly later.
In December last year, the Scottish government took the Ferguson Marine shipyard into public ownership and published a Review Board report, which indicated a delivery range for the MV Glen Sannox of October to December 2021 and a delivery range of July to October 2022 for vessel 802, with an estimated outstanding cost for delivery of the two ferries of £110.3m.
Meanwhile, union chiefs have warning that the ferries could be further held up as crews will need ‘advanced firefighting qualifications’ in order to deal with specialist fuels.
The two ferries are set to be the first UK-built ships to be fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and conventional diesel. Now the RMT union has warned that the use of LNG will require crews to gain advanced firefighting qualifications, in line with the legal requirements.
Committee members are shown the aft deck of the MV Glen Sannox by Tim Hair, turnaround director, Ferguson Marine. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. NO_B09ferry01
Tim Hair (left) pictured with convener Edward Mountain MSP at the yard. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. NO_B09ferry02