CalMac bosses have insisted two ferries being built by Ferguson Marine are to the specifications the ferry operator wanted – including what type of fuel they will use.
A previous witness in Holyrood’s ferries inquiry, former government adviser Luke van Beek, said CalMac “didn’t want” the type of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vessels under construction.
But the CEO in charge of CalMac, David Mackison, said the claim was wrong and that he had never met Mr van Beek.
The ferries are the first designed for use in Scotland to run on the “dual fuel” of both diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Last August, the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow yard was nationalised by the Scottish Government to prevent it going into administration amid spiralling costs and lengthy delays to construction.
In December, then-finance secretary Derek Mackay announced the two ships – 801 and 802 – would be delivered up to four years late and at as much as double the original £97m cost.
Mr van Beek, brought in by the Scottish Government to advise on problems with the ferries, told MSPs he had met with “the CEO of CalMac” and been told “they (CalMac) didn’t want LNG ships”.
However, Mackison, CEO of David MacBrayne Limited (DML) which owns CalMac, disputed this account as “not correct”, adding: “I haven’t met Luke Van Beek, and I’m not aware of my predecessor having met him.”
At latest session of the inquiry on Wednesday, CalMac’s managing director Robbie Drummond – who originally stepped into the role on an interim basis after the departure of former DML CEO Martin Dorchester – confirmed he had met Mr van Deek.
Mr Drummond said: “We had a discussion around LNG… on some of the complexities around training and regulation for LNG but that was the extent of it.”
He added: “Our specification required dual fuel so we put that in our specification, that’s what we wanted.”
Asked to clarify beyond doubt that CalMac had wanted LNG vessels, Mr Drummond replied: “Yes. That was an agreement that was reached – the tripartite agreement – where it was agreed that to reduce emissions, LNG was the sensible choice at that time.
“LNG is a fuel that is used widely through the Scandinavian ferry fleet.
“It’s a very normal technology, it’s used widely in the shipping industry and its use is going to increase into the future until alternative technologies become closer.”
The ferries inquiry has seen a string of claims and accusations made by officials involved in the contract.
Over the years, Ferguson Marine complained repeatedly that government-owned procurement body Caledonian Marine Asset Limited (CMAL) had requested hundreds of changes to the original design.
But the ex-finance secretary criticised “disastrous” mismanagement of the project by Ferguson’s when he addressed MSPs in December, shortly after the shipyard was taken into public ownership.
Speaking to the inquiry, former Ferguson’s boss Jim McColl branded Mackay’s comments “defamatory” and “nonsense”.
Mr McColl, who is also one of Nicola Sturgeon’s economic advisers, pushed for a public inquiry to be held into the matter, saying: “This needs a lot more investigation.
“The reason that I would like it to go to a public inquiry is I would like there to be a judge and I would like people to be under oath.”
Following the resignation of the finance secretary last month after it emerged he had sent hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old boy, there have been calls for the First Minister to appear before the inquiry in Mackay’s absence.
And at an earlier evidence session, consultant Roy Pedersen – when asked why he thought Ferguson Marine was given the ferries contract – answered: “I do not know the answer but three things spring to mind.
“One is incompetence, another is vested interest and the final one is corruption.”
Appearing before the inquiry on Wednesday after CalMac, a Transport Scotland official told MSPs she “strongly resists that description of the process”.
Fran Pacitti, director of aviation, maritime, freight and canals at the transport body, added: “We, in this instance, asked for an independent health check of that procurement process and were satisfied.”