Two new ferries for Islay will not be made in Scotland after four shipyards from elsewhere were invited to tender for the contract.
More than 30 organisations expressed an interest in taking on the job and 11 entered submissions that Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) said were “rigorously” assessed.
But only four companies, one from Romania, another from Poland and two in Turkey, reached the final stage of the procurement process.
A decision on which shipyard will win the job will be made before the end of March 2022, CMAL said.
The Islay route is one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network, and it was decided to contract two new ferries after discussions with Transport Scotland, ferry operator CalMac and communities on the island.
This week CMAL announced that the new vessels will be built at either Damen Shipyard in Romania, Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland, or one of the Turkish shipyards Sefine Denizcilik Tersanecilik Turizm or Cemre Marin Endustri.
The procurement process for new ferries has come under scrutiny recently because of issues with two vessels from the publicly-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard in Inverclyde.
Holyrood’s rural economy and connectivity committee described the process as a “catastrophic failure”.
The Scottish Government minister for islands at the time rejected the claim.
The Ferguson Marine shipyard made a £100m loss in the months after it was nationalised in August 2019 following its financial collapse.
Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL, said: “We received interest from many shipyards across the world, and carried out robust assessment of their technical and financial suitability to take on this project.
“Four shipyards scored the highest across both criteria and have now been issued an ITT for the contract. This stage of the procurement process will take around six months, and we hope to award the contract to the winning shipyard at the end of March 2022.
“The ITT stage marks an important step forward in bringing a new vessel to Islay and Jura. It is one of several new vessel and harbour upgrade projects we are currently progressing to improve the resilience of ferry services for island communities.”