More delays for long-awaited MV Glen Sannox

The MV Glen Sannox before and after.

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The new Arran ferry the MV Glen Sannox has been hit by another three months of delay as a result of Covid-19 and shortages of local skilled labour.

As a result she is unlikely to be in service before September 2022 and could go straight to Troon, where the main Arran service is being transferred while major harbour works are carried out at Ardrossan.

The news came in an update Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) has published on the construction of two public sector ferries and progress made in the turnaround of the shipyard.

A programme report submitted to the Scottish parliament’s transport committee details the impact that Covid-19 and shortages of local skilled labour has had on delivery schedules and pandemic-related costs.

These factors have created a total 15-week delay in the construction of both vessels.  As a result, MV Glen Sannox is scheduled to be delivered between July 2022 and September 2022 while Hull 802 is scheduled to be delivered between April 2023 and July 2023. However, both vessels will both then be required to undergo sea trials before being brought into service.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused six months of disruption in 2020 and productivity has continued to be impacted due to a further shutdown in January 2021 and the introduction of additional safety measures.  The timeline impact of ongoing disruption has been calculated as seven weeks, with additional costs of £1 million, which reflects the update given to parliament in March this year.  It brings the total Covid-19 costs to £4.3 million, which is treated as an exceptional item and does not affect the overall project budget.  The overall project budget remains stable and unchanged at £110.3 million.

Recruitment challenges since late 2020 have caused a delay of eight weeks as the shortage of local skilled labour meant that Ferguson’s had to meet resource requirements by subcontracting smaller fabrications to Scottish businesses – which has supported 25 jobs – and introducing overseas workers.

The report also outlines achievements and progress to date, including a major milestone in the build of MV Glen Sannox with the completion of structural work.

Progress is visible, with the installation of a reworked funnel and newly-constructed mast, as well as completion of the structure around the stern and inside the hull.  Remedial work has been completed on hull paintwork and the first layers of protective paint have been applied to the aluminum superstructure.  Completion of the structure makes way for outfitting of the vessel, which includes the installation of 10km of pipework and extensive equipment, plus the creation of public spaces and cabins and full furnishing.

Despite the challenges and delays, shipyard management remains positive based on improved capability built over the past 18 months, including a highly qualified and capable leadership team in place.  The senior management team now has 130 years of combined shipbuilding experience, with other new expert appointments and existing high-calibre employees promoted into key positions.

Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow), said: ‘I know the further delay to the project will be a disappointment to island communities and others who await the arrival of the new ferries.  There remains a lot of work to do on the vessels, but it is important to recognise the level of progress too, as well as the significant operational improvements we have implemented to introduce robust and effective business processes.  We have, in effect, created a functioning shipyard business from a standing start.

‘The past year has been extremely challenging; we’ve been working under the restrictions and pressure of a global pandemic, and recruitment has proved difficult, with the pool of skilled workers insufficient to meet our resource requirements.

‘However, we now enter a new phase of production.  The milestone on MV Glen Sannox is highly significant because, for the first time in this project, we have a complete vessel structure to work with.  Construction is also progressing on Hull 802, with the first new units recently lifted into place.

‘We have reached an important turning point from reworking the past to building the future.  We are doing everything possible to deliver the dual fuel ferry programme, improve productivity, secure contracts for future vessels, and protect local jobs.’