Ten-year plan to invest £1bn in 23 new ferries

Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

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Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson has welcomed the Scottish Government and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd’s (CMAL) ambitious plans to invest £1 billion renewing Scotland’s ferry fleet and upgrade ferry ports over the next decade.

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive officer, and Brian Fulton, head of business support at CMAL outlined their ambitious to build six major new vessels in addition to the MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 currently under construction in Port Glasgow. Whilst the Glen Sannox is expected next summer, the others will enter service by Quarter (Q) 2 2026. This means that eight of the 11 major new vessels currently in service will be replaced, including the present Arran ferry, the MV Caledonian Isles. The exceptions are the MV Finlaggan, MV Lochnevis and MV Loch Seaforth.

In addition, two new Northern Isles vessels which currently carry freight will be replaced by 2026/27 possibly with passenger capacity too.

Thirteen small vessels will also be built in two phases of seven and six, entering service from Q3 2024 to Q2 2026 and 2027/28 respectively.

The fleet will be expanded from 36 to 39 vessels by 2030, 23 of them new.

The Scottish Government has already committed £580 million to 2026, not including the Glen Sannox and vessel 802. The total cost of fleet renewal and seven extensive harbour upgrades is expected to be £1 billion by the programme’s completion in 2030, representing a huge investment in our island communities.

Mr Gibson said: ‘I’m delighted that CMAL – strongly backed by the Scottish Government – is progressing with its ambitious plans to renew our ageing ferry fleet and major harbour upgrades.

‘There will be extensive community consultation on the detail of these plans. A replacement for the Caledonian Isles is expected to enter service by Q2 2026.

‘Small vessels are likely to be built in Port Glasgow, where they have experience of building them on time and on budget. Large vessels will go out to international procurement.

‘CMAL is aiming to ensure each small vessel can sail using 100 per cent electric power, although this comes with technical challenges. Hybrid vessels are likely for the foreseeable future, with the possibility of retrofitting as technology advances.

‘Vessels will be designed with interchangeable components, so that there won’t be a situation where there spare parts which only fit one vessel.’