New ferry won’t be in service until 2023

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By Hugh Boag

The new Arran ferry is unlikely to be in service until 2023, it emerged this week.

The final report by the departing turnaround director at Ferguson Marine, Tim Hair, reveals the bleak news.

In the report he says delayed pipework installation in the MV Glen Sannox presents a ‘critical risk’ to the delivery of the vessel on time.

That timescale is still estimated as between July 25 and September 25 this year – unchanged since June 2021.

However, even if the ferry is delivered in September, which now seems unlikely, it will require at least two months of sea trials before being brought into service.

And in another blow Mr Hair, in his quarterly report for the last three months of 2021, admits that because much of the equipment for the ferries has been installed since 2016 there is an ‘unquantifiable risk’ that equipment problems may emerge during commissioning.

In his report to the Scottish government transport committee, in which he has again gone back to referring to the MV Glen Sannox by her yard name, Hull 801, Mr Hair states: ‘Delivery of 801 in the time window described is achievable but remains challenging.

‘The planned increase in production activity in January and February is critical to the achievement of this delivery schedule.’

However, he warns that the ongoing pandemic could affect this.

He says: ‘At the time of writing the Omicron variant is in its early stages but Ferguson has already seen an increase in absence for self-isolation and testing.

‘It seems likely that we will experience significant disruption in January and that in turn might result in lost productivity. The resulting impact is impossible to quantify or predict at this juncture.’

Speaking about the potential pipework problems Mr Hair explained: ‘Pipework installation rates have increased in recent weeks with a strong focus on maintaining the critical path activities, however, the overall rate of pipework installation on 801 has not achieved planned levels.

‘Actions are in place to increase resource and recover the shortfall in early 2022, but this is an important area and represents a critical risk to the delivery of 801.’

Turning to the lack of skilled workers available for the shipyard to hire Mr Hair states: ‘I had previously highlighted the constraints caused by a shortage of skilled workers available locally or from the UK and described the solutions implemented.

‘These have focussed on the use of subcontractors employing overseas workers, and I am pleased to report that this approach is working well.’

Delivery of the MV Glen Sannox  sister ship, Hull 802, remains in the range of April 3, 2023 to July 3, 2023.

However, Mr Hair did advise that, treating Covid-19 costs as an exceptional item, the nationalised yard was on track to deliver the project for the budget of £110m to £114m identified in December 2019.

The shipyard has a new permanent chief executive, David Tydeman, who will take over from Mr Hair on February 1 and who will be responsible for future updates to the committee.

Mr Hair signed off: ‘Under Scottish government ownership Ferguson Marine has again become a functioning shipyard, with three smaller vessels delivered, the completion of the ferries underway and credible future projects in the pipeline.

‘I am proud to have played my part in the history of the yard, have every confidence that it has a sustainable future, and will watch the next stage of its development with interest.’