Romanian specialists now designing new Arran ferry

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A new report has unveiled the catalogue of failures which continues to dog the ill-fated MV Glen Sannox.

It includes revelations that much of the design work is now being carried out in Romania, that hull vibration, which has been discovered, indicates there may be an inherent design problem, and that materials which have been stored offsite are in a poor condition after being left unmanned.

It has also been disclosed that the half-built ferry had spent so long at the quayside at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow that 42 tonnes of mussels had to be removed from the hull of the vessel when she went into dry dock earlier this month, but the paintwork, which had been a concern, was found to be in good condition. The yard is also struggling to hire and retain staff.

However, despite all this, the Scottish Government have given an exact date when the new ferry will begin services on the on the Ardrossan to Brodick route – April 14, 2022 – four years after it was first expected to arrive. That is after eight weeks of sea trials, beginning in February of that year.

And the government has also admitted that the cost of the MV Glen Sannox and her sister ship will be more than double the original contract cost of £97 million, with a extra price tag of £110.3m to £114.3m to complete

The ferry is being built at the now nationalised Ferguson Marine yard at Port Glasgow which, like the rest of the country, was closed during lockdown and work only resumed on the ferries at the end of June. Around 130 workers – 50 per cent – of the workforce are now back, with many still working from home.  The estimated cost related to the Covid delays is put at £3.3m.

However, it is the revelation in the latest updated report by turnaround director Tim Hair, issued this week, that the government has now hired 80 specialists in Romania  – that is the most startling.

The report states: ‘Recruitment of technical specialists to re-evaluate the ferry designs and then complete the project has proved extremely difficult. Although some good appointments have been possible, the local demand for these skills on either a contract or employed basis is high and it has not been possible to resource the project at the required level.

‘A contingency plan was being developed when the original report was submitted and in February 2020 International Contract Engineering (ICE) was awarded a contract to provide assistance to Ferguson to complete the basic and detailed design of the ferries. ICE is an internationally recognised marine designer and the largest independent ship design consultancy in Europe. UK-owned and with an operating base in Romania, ICE employs over 300 graduate Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and has a track record of delivering complex vessel designs to shipyards across the world. Currently, ICE has over 80 specialists working on the ferry project, a level that could never have been achieved by Ferguson or its previous sub-contract design partner.’

In a statement to parliament this week economy secretary Fiona Hyslop told MSPs: ‘This has been a hugely challenging year for the business (Ferguson Marine). In line with much economic activity across Europe the Covid pandemic has essentially closed the yard for six months.

‘Despite that interruption to business much has been achieved. The turnaround director has significantly strengthened the senior management team. I have appointed a new board to help drive the business forward. Trade Union representatives have direct access to the board and a workers liaison committee is being set up.

‘Vessel design has progressed significantly and the dry dock inspection of 801 (MV Glen Sannox) demonstrated the paintwork is sound. Work to complete the ferries can now proceed at full speed. I believe we can look to the future with confidence.’

Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson:  ‘While this has been a long and winding road, I’m pleased that we are now making steady progress, securing 350 jobs directly at Ferguson Marine and a similar number in the supply chain.’

Top 10 risks, as listed in the report, which could still hit the project
  1. Covid -19 has required the shutdown of the yard and may have a significant further impact to delivery.
  2. Covid-19: there is a risk that the ongoing effect may impact the yard or its suppliers.
  3. Materials have been stored offsite at Westway in poor conditions and unmanned. The material condition and level of stock is uncertain and may result in material stock write downs.
  4. Work packaging arrangements are not robust enough to control properly the work sequence and capturing performance.
  5. In a competitive market for skills, we may be unable to recruit or retain production staff in the required numbers, with suitable qualifications and experience.
  6. The level of rework is not sufficiently scoped. Known rework is not fully scoped. Unknown rework will occur, particularly during the test and commissioning phase.
  7. A commercial decision is not reached with the original electrical contractor to allow electrical work to progress to the plan.
  8. Equipment may not work during the setting to work and commissioning phase as a result of being idle for a significant length of time.
  9. Vessel cannot meet contract deadweight.
  10. Hull vibration analysis indicates that there may be an inherent design problem.