Ferry fiasco has been ‘absolutely tragic’ for island communities

CMAL chief executive Kevin Hobbs.

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The residents of Arran have been ‘let down very, very badly’ by the Ferguson Marine fiasco, the boss of Caledonian Martime Assets Ltd (CMAL) has said.

But he blamed the three-year delay on completion of the MV Glen Sannox, which will serve the Ardrossan to Brodick route, squarely on ‘complete and utter contractor failure’.

The Port Glasgow shipyard of Ferguson Marine had to be rescued from collapse last year and taken into Scottish government ownership. An inquiry by the Scottish parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee is due to report in the next few weeks.

In an interview with The Scotsman last weekend, CMAL chief executive Kevin Hobbs said he expects the MSPs to criticise everybody involved.

He said the delays had been ‘absolutely tragic’ for the island communities involved, which had been ‘let down very, very badly’.

He revealed that a total of 19 new ships are due to be ordered in a project which Mr Hobbs described as a ‘mountain to climb’. The £550 million order book comprised six major ferries, 10 smaller vessels and three replacements for chartered ferries on Clyde routes from Gourock.

However, Mr Hobbs said the much-needed programme had been set back by two years because of major delays and cost over-runs to two other CalMac ferries being built at Ferguson Marine.

‘We should have been well on with building more ships at this stage but the resource involved in sorting out the problems which we’ve been subjected to has been, to be frank, enormous and crushing in many respects.

‘We have been under some pressure to work our way through this. We are a very small professional team but there is only so many hours in a day,’ he said.

Glen Sannox is now expected to start operating on the main Arran route in summer 2022 – more than three years late – after being delivered to CalMac between April and June that year.

Her unnamed sister vessel is due to enter service early in 2023 on the Skye-Harris-North Uist routes following delivery between December 2022 and February 2023.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said CMAL’s plans would be considered by ministers.

MV Glen Sannox leaving dry dock in September. Photo Mark Gibson Digital