A Turkish shipyard has won a £105m contract to build two new lifeline CalMac ferries for Islay.
Cemre Marin Endustri has been announced as the preferred bidder for the order against three other yards which will increase vehicle and freight capacity by nearly 40 per cent.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd intends to award the contract following a ten-day standstill period.
The first vessel is expected to be delivered by October 2024 and will enter service following sea trials and crew familiarisation. The second vessel will follow in early 2025.
The Islay route is one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network.
Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL said: “Identifying a preferred bidder is a big step forward in the project to provide new vessels for Islay and Jura.
“All four shipyards submitted compelling bids, but with robust assessment of technical and financial criteria, Cemre Marin Endustri was the winner.”
However, Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson, said it was an “embarrassment” for the SNP.
Simpson said: “Their government-run yard at Port Glasgow is in no fit state to be considered for this contract.
“The two ferries being built there are nowhere near finished. It would come as no surprise if the Turkish yard completed these very welcome new vessels for Islay before anything leaves Ferguson Marine.
“The award is good news for islanders who will have a degree of confidence that they might actually see new ferries at the end of it.”
It is understood that Ferguson Marine embarked on a bid for the contract through the initial pre-qualification questionnaire process but failed to make the shortlist.
Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited said that each submission was rigorously assessed against “quality, technical and commercial criteria” and the contract was expected to be awarded to the winning shipyard no later than the end of March 2022.
Minister for transport Jenny Gilruth said: “I’m very pleased to see CMAL name the preferred bidder for this vital project, which will see two new ferries built to serve the Islay routes.
“These links are some of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network and the new vessels will help to grow the island’s economy, as well as bring added resilience to the fleet.
“This underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to bringing in new ferries to support our island communities. We want to continue to see progress on bringing vessels into service on time and budget.
“We look forward to continuing to work with key stakeholders to develop programmes for major vessels and small vessels – investing at least £580m as part of our Infrastructure Investment Plan.”
Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, added: “We very much look forward to welcoming these two new vessels into the CalMac fleet. This will help us deliver a service we can all be proud of.”