Shipyard unable to find recruits for seven-day week working

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

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The delivery of the new Arran ferry has been delayed again as the shipyard building them is struggling to recruit extra staff.

Ferguson Marine hoped to take on 120 extra workers to enable seven-day working but last weekend the new shift had only 29 staff in place to work on the MV Glen Sannox and her sister ship.

The Banner warned when the move was announced at the start of March that the yard may struggle to find the skilled workers they needed in Inverclyde – and that has proved to be the case

The nationalised Port Glasgow yard has confirmed the delivery timetable has slipped by another seven weeks due to Covid-related issues, and the difficulties in recruiting skilled workers could lead to a further delay.

Ferguson turnaround director Tim Hair said it was not possible at this time to say with certainty when the ferries would be delivered.

The ferries were originally due to enter service on the Arran and Skye/Outer Hebrides routes in 2018/19. Under a revised delivery schedule given last August, the first ferry – MV Glen Sannox – was to be completed between April and June 2022 and the second ship between December 2022 and February 2023.

But in a new update to a Holyrood committee, Mr Hair said recruitment uncertainty meant ‘it is not therefore possible to provide a definitive schedule for completion of the vessels at this time’.

Despite the latest delays Mr Hair said the yard remained ‘on track’ to deliver the ferries within the ‘remedial work’ budget of between £110m and £114m.

Mr Hair said an unforeseen four-week shutdown in January was needed to adapt the yard’s facilities to comply with revised Covid regulations.

The lockdowns have also led to a large amount of holiday time being accrued by the workforce, which will add another three weeks to the delivery plans.

In March the yard announced it was recruiting 120 extra staff to enable a move to seven-day working during the spring and summer.

While the weekend shift has now begun, the response has been ‘limited’ with only about a quarter of posts filled. Mr Hair revealed the weekday staffing is also 30 short of requirement.

He said: ‘Skilled labour is proving very difficult to recruit locally and it seems that the pool of skilled workers available to Ferguson is unable to meet our resource requirements.’

The shipyard, which currently employs about 400 workers, is now looking to fill the vacancies through subcontractors but, if necessary, may have to look overseas.