Cost of repairing Scotland's ferry fleet soars to more than £200m 

A Freedom of Information request revealed the cost of repairing CalMac ferries has tripled in ten years.

Cost of repairing CalMac ferries in Scotland triples over ten years to more than £200m iStock
Ferries: The figures were highlighted following a freedom of information request.

The cost of repairs to Scotland’s ferry fleet has “soared” over the last decade, new figures suggest.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Scottish Conservatives indicates that the cost of repairing CalMac ferries has tripled in the last ten years.

Total spending has now surpassed the £200m since the SNP came into power at Holyrood in 2007.

The figures were published in the same week that an emergency diesel generator on one of two overdue ferries at the Ferguson Marine yard was switched on successfully.

The vessels are significantly overbudget and have been hit by setbacks since first being ordered in 2015.

In the latest financial year, figures show that between April 1 last year and March 31 this year, a sum of £28m was spent on total repair costs for the CalMac fleet.

It represents a rise on the £17m spent in the previous year, and is a large jump on the £7.8m spent in 2007.

Overall, just over £217m has been spent since 2007 on repair costs for the fleet, according to the figures.

The average age of the CalMac ferries fleet is 24 years, with some of the larger boats even older.

Graham Simpson, the Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, warned that over a third of the fleet is working beyond the time the vessels were designed to.

“The age and decline of Scotland’s ferry fleet is taking an ever heavier toll on island communities and the public purse,” said Simpson.

“More than a third of CalMac’s ships are working beyond their design life, and the operator’s head engineer has admitted that breakdowns will become more frequent as time goes on.

“It is no wonder that the cost of repairs has soared.”

He continued: “The SNP have utterly failed to deliver their promised ferry replacement programme, which has forced them to fork out a fortune of public money on ships which should rightly have been retired years ago.

“Meanwhile, two unfinished vessels in nationalised Ferguson shipyard are several years late and still months away from completion, having racked up costs of more than £250m so far.

Simpson added: “The SNP is letting down Scottish taxpayers and abandoning island residents who rely on these lifeline routes.

“They must urgently deliver the new ferries we desperately need or the breakdowns and delays will only get worse.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said that a fund has been up aimed at ensuring the reliability and availability of vessels.

“The Scottish Government has invested around £2bn in our ferry services since 2007,” they said.

“It has also established a Resilience Fund to ensure future reliability and availability of vessels, which is over and above the annual expenditure for maintenance and repairs.

“The allocation for 2021/2022 is £4m for each of the lifeline fleets.

“Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd are responsible for governance of this funding with CalMac Ferries Ltd leading on implementation.

“Since 2007 we have also increased frequency significantly on a number of services as well as bringing in new routes.”

The spokesperson pointed to further funding having been committed to improving infrastructure.

They continued: “We have long acknowledged the need to address delays in ferry infrastructure, which is why we have committed to investing a further £580m in the Infrastructure Investment Plan.

“We have recently issued the contract to build two new ferries for the Islay routes and we look forward to the recently acquired MV Loch Frisa entering service.

“We continue to charge CalMac and CMAL with seeking potential second hand tonnage to improve operational resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes.

“The previous charters of MV Arrow are further evidence of this ongoing commitment to improve and support the existing fleet in this way.”