Seven days a week working to get Arran ferry finished

Turnaround director Tim Hair with some of the hard hats they will need for the new workers.

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Contract workers are being hired at the Ferguson Marine yard at Port Glasgow which will see production on the new Arran ferry stepped up to seven days a week.

Some 120 temporary workers are being recruited to support the introduction of a weekend shift to work on the long delayed MV Glen Sannox.

Tim Hair, turnaround director at the yard, said: ‘We are taking serious action with the introduction of a weekend shift in an effort to expedite the delivery schedule for the dual fuel ferries project.  I want to take advantage of better weather and extended daylight hours over the next six months to drive the project hard. Last year was challenging, with disruption created by the pandemic, but we’re confident we can increase momentum in 2021.’

The current plans for MV Glen Sannox are for completion from the yard in the April to June 2022 period and then CalMac will carry out training, familiarisation and sea trials which then suggests an in-service timescale in the autumn of next year.

By the time it comes into service it is expected the Arran ferry will be going to Troon, from September next year, for the duration of the improvement works at Ardrossan.

Weekend production will begin on March 19 for at least six months and the shipyard requires 120 skilled and experienced contract workers to cover shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The vacancies are mainly for pipe fitters and steel workers, in line with current build requirements on the new Arran ferry and Hull 802, the two ferries being built for Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).

The new weekend rota is a short-term measure designed specifically to boost production on the dual fuel vessel project and to accelerate progress against delivery schedules.  It means the shipyard will be in production seven days a week during spring and summer months and will bring total headcount to more than 500.

Recruitment firm, Advantage, is managing the search and appointment of contract workers to fill the vacancies.  Due to the timescales involved and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, Ferguson is currently looking for UK-based workers only.

Mr Hair said: ‘It’s a great opportunity for skilled workers in the local community and surrounding areas to join us in a pivotal year and contribute to an important vessel project.’

Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson added: ‘Having long been vocal about the need for delivery of a high-quality new vessel to serve the people and communities Arran, I welcome the news that Ferguson Marine is taking serious steps to speed up construction of the MV Glen Sannox. I look forward to its completion and the subsequent commencement of sea trials.’

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ferguson achieved significant progress during 2020 towards rebuilding the business.  Key milestones include the creation of an engineering function largely made up of permanent employees; proper definition of business processes and planning, including procurement practices; awarding of contracts for the outfit of the dual fuel vessels; more than £600,000 invested in a new tower crane; creation of more than 100 jobs filled by local talent; and reintroduction of the apprentice programme, which recruited 25 young people – a record number in a single year.

Mr Hair said: ‘This level of business change in a single year is hardly ever attempted and, while there remains significant work to complete around the improvement of systems and processes, a huge amount has been achieved.

‘We are confident, despite many challenges, 2021 will be a pivotal year in securing the long-term future of the shipyard.  We must do everything possible to deliver the dual fuel ferry programme, improve productivity, secure contracts for future vessels, and protect local jobs.  This recruitment drive for 120 jobs is another key milestone in building a successful and competitive business.’

The MV Glen Sannox leaving dry dock in Greenock last year. Photograph: Mark Gibson