Back to drawing board

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The report into ferry procurement this week by the wholly-owned public corporation CMAL makes staggering reading.

Little wonder that the crisis in the west of Scotland ferry service goes far deeper than the ferry fiasco at Ferguson Marine which has led to the new Arran ferry being at least four years late and at £240 million, two-and-a-half times the original price.

CMAL has just signed a deal for two new ferries to serve Islay with a Turkish yard at a cost of £52 million each – a bargain it would seem. But not when a slightly bigger ferry for Norway is being built at the same yard for less than £31 million.

Why, you may ask? Well it seems CMAL never buy anything off plan. With each new ferry procurement, CMAL starts with a blank sheet of paper and develops a unique ferry, never before built. The Norwegian vessel by contrast uses a common design that will be repeated over and over for many future vessels. It’s far cheaper to make the same thing over and over than to start from scratch each time.

CMAL’s design also includes expensive and complicated engineering which adds more steel, more fabrication, more weight and more cost.

And, more worryingly, as the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee report states: ‘Publishing the price you expect to pay 12 months before putting the tender out doesn’t really help your negotiating position.’

Time for CMAL to get back to the drawing board – literally.