Long-awaited lifeline CalMac ferry 'could set to sea today'

The Glen Sannox is one of two new lifeline ferries that are five years late and three times over budget.

There is something in the air at the Ferguson Marine shipyard which has been missing for many years – a sense of optimism.

It is fair to say this site has taken a battering for the lengthy delays and spiralling costs of building two new ferries for the CalMac fleet.

They are currently five years late and around three times the original price.

Much of the flak has been directed at the Scottish Government which owns the yard, as well as CMAL which commissions the ships for CalMac.

But Ferguson Marine itself has also come in for heavy criticism.

David Tydeman, CEO of Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow (FMPG).STV News

Now though there is a different atmosphere about the place, notably absent on visits under previous regimes.

The Glen Sannox, basking in the sunshine, has come to life.

You can detect the relief on chief executive David Tydeman’s face when he proudly says the ship is far enough advanced operationally that it could set to sea today.

Much of the 300km of cabling remains exposed inside the ship, with the internal fittings remaining to be completed.

But the vessel is due to start harbour and sea trials this summer, with a handover to CalMac scheduled for between late autumn and Christmas.

Then it should start sailing the route to Arran next Spring.

The as-yet unnamed Hull 802 is now watertight, and 80% structurally complete.

The hope is it will be launched at the end of November and handed over in the late summer of next year.

Much of the 300km of cabling remains exposed inside the Glen Sannox, with the internal fittings remaining to be completed.STV News

The worst would appear to be over, but there may be a few bumps to navigate in the coming months.

Some additional work has been uncovered on the Glen Sannox which could increase the final cost when Mr Tydeman updates Parliament next month.

However, in his opinion, UK shipbuilding is at the most buoyant he has seen it in his career.

Around £250m of suitable work is available from BAE and CMAL’s small ferry programme, work which would make a huge difference to the yard for the next four to five years.

Work on three steel units for BAE is already underway.

Additional investment from the Scottish Government will be needed to improve productivity.

But apprentices talk enthusiastically about life after these ferries, about their long-term future at the yard.

The next nine months will be key when the bidding process for future work gets underway.

But it is not simply the blazing Inverclyde sunshine convincing many here the darkest days of the yard are behind them.

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