Economy secretary Kate Forbes has said ferries must be completed at a Scottish Government owned shipyard saying she will accept “no ifs, no buts”.
Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow was saved by the Scottish Government in 2019 after collapsing into administration, but the purchase laid bare a number of issues which would cause multi-year delays to two vessels under construction.
The decision of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) – the body tasked with procuring Scotland’s ferries – to invite four foreign yards to tender for two ferries to serve Islay and Jura, created some anger on Tuesday.
But Forbes stressed that her priority was to get the two ferries currently under construction finished and allow the yard to become competitive.
She told MSPs: “All of our actions and decisions must be to ensure those vessels are completed and the yard has a long term future.
“I weigh up all decisions within my own powers on that basis.”
Forbes said she has made clear to management at Ferguson Marine she will not accept excuses when it comes to the two ships – which were subject to a parliamentary inquiry as a result of being multiple years overdue and more than double the initial cost.
“Leadership does matter and I’m monitoring progress at the yard closely through the board, who ultimately oversee operational matters and hold management accountable for performance,” she said.
“I have been crystal clear with the yard’s management that I expect – no ifs, no buts – the two vessels to be completed and the yard to get into a position to compete successfully for tenders.”
The two ships, the MV Glen Sannox or 801 and 802, were found to be massively behind schedule by Forbes’ predecessor, Derek Mackay, who told MSPs in December 2019 it could cost an extra £98.8m to finish the construction.
The extra cost has now ballooned to more than £110m – more than double the initial price of £97m.
Already behind schedule at that point – the ships were due to enter service during 2018 – it’s now estimated that one will be finished between July and September next year, with the other completed between April and July.
Meanwhile, Forbes said the decision to invite four foreign shipyards to tender for the Islay and Jura vessels – two in Turkey, with the others from Romania and Poland – was an “important and welcome addition” for island communities.