Ferry chief: operators are going to be ‘nervous’ about ordering Ferguson ships

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In the midst of the ongoing repercussions from a deal to develop two dual-fuel vessels for West Coast operations, a West of Scotland-based ferry boss has cautioned that commercial operators will now be ‘nervous’ about ordering new vessels from Ferguson Shipyard on the Clyde.

An MSP report earlier this month on the procurement and delivery of the two vessels for the CalMac network called the operation a “catastrophic failure.” Ferguson, then owned by Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital, was awarded the £ 97 million contract to build the ferries in 2015 by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL). But delays, the costs and a breakdown in relationships between CMAL, which owns the CalMac-operated ferries, and the bosses of the yard, have marred the operation.

The ships have yet to be built and are estimated to cost at least twice the original value of the deal, with Ferguson being nationalized after falling into insolvency last year.

The Ferguson shipyard was purchased by McColl after it had already gone into bankruptcy in 2014.

Dunoon-based Western Ferries (Clyde) managing director Gordon Ross said his company had successfully sourced from Ferguson four Linkspans and two of its four vessels.

He said, “While Ferguson was working on the new CMAL vessels, within budget and on time, we got a Linkspan delivered.”

“When the contracts [for the Cal-Mac ferries]were awarded to Fergusons, it was a great opportunity for the new company to set itself up for the future,” he said.

But to use the term catastrophic for a Holyrood study is itself catastrophic. If you’re a commercial shipbuilder, technological capability and track record are part of the working contract process.

“There is a diligent job being done when it comes to contracting. My concern is that the cost overruns and delays could create a real nervousness among commercial operators to award contracts to Fergusons.”

The MPs called for a “fundamental overhaul” of the ferry procurement process in their 129-page report, saying existing procedures were “no longer fit for purpose”

“It’s just a real shame that the whole project has been described as disastrous by a committee at Holyrood.” Mr. Ross added.

A car and passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon is run by Western Ferries.

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