Ministers urged to save Fergusons shipyard as Kate Forbes attends summit

The state-owned yard could soon close if no more work comes in, the Scottish Government has been warned.

The shipyard building two late and over-budget ferries for CalMac could soon have to close without action from the Scottish Government, ministers have been told.

Stephen McCabe, the leader of Inverclyde Council, warned that without more work coming in the Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow could have to cut its workforce or face closure “within a reasonably short period of time”.

Deputy first minister Kate Forbes pledged to leave “no stone unturned” in efforts to secure a future for the state-owned shipyard.

McCabe has called on the Scottish Government to award it a contract to build several smaller ferries for CalMac.

That’s despite the two vessels already being built by Ferguson Marine for the ferry operator being years late and massively over budget.

The Glen Sannox and the Glen Rosa are now about six years late and will cost around three times the original £97m price tag.

But McCabe insisted those ferries were “far too big” to be constructed at Fergusons.

“We all need to move on beyond those two large ferries,” he said. “They were far too big for the yard, far too complicated in design. The design wasn’t even finished before they started building them.

“No yard in the world could have built those two ferries for £97m and on the timescale they were asked to complete them in.

“So we need to move on from that. The yard has got a strong track record in completing small ferries on time and on budget and that is what we need to be looking at.”

Forbes attended the summit on Thursday which also included Ferguson’s executive and GMB trade union officials.

McCabe said the deputy FM should confirm the government “will make a direct award for this small ferries contract”.

“I don’t think Fergusons can compete on price, because of the lower wages that are paid in foreign yards,” he said.

“I think the government has to seriously look at a direct award.”

Speaking after the summit on Thursday, Forbes did not confirm any direct award of the vessels to Ferguson Marine.

But she said: “The Scottish Government shares a common goal with GMB Scotland, the yard, the workers and all stakeholders who met today – to seek a sustainable future for Ferguson Marine which works for employees, the taxpayer and Scotland’s economy.

“I have heard many ideas and been impressed by the energy and commitment of everyone involved. The contributions will be at the forefront of my mind over the coming weeks as we consider proposals for the yard’s medium and long-term future.

“Ferguson’s workers deserve huge praise for their dedication and hard work.

“Despite the well-documented problems, Glen Sannox is on course for delivery by the end of July and Glen Rosa will be completed next year.”

Kate Forbes said she wanted to see a 'sustainable' future for Ferguson Marine.Getty Images

Also speaking after the summit, McCabe said there was consensus that attendees wanted Ferguson to survive but that there had to be a “strong cost-benefit” for the new contract to go to the shipyard.

“Ferguson’s is the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde,” he said. “We are a maritime nation. We cannot afford for this yard to close.”

GMB senior organiser Gary Cook said the small ferry contract must be the start of a “pipeline of work” to support the yard.

“These contracts would become a springboard back to profitability and help the workforce repay taxpayers for the faith and investment already placed in the yard,” he said

“The workers are committed, skilled and completely blameless for the errors made in recent years and must be given the chance to show that.

“Kate Forbes will leave Greenock today under no illusion about how important these contracts are to the yard and how they will help protect its shipbuilding heritage for generations to come.”

Scottish Tory transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said the discussion at the summit was “useful and frank”, adding that the Deputy First Minister should learn from the “dithering of her predecessors” and make a quick decision.

“She needs to decide whether the small ferries work is awarded to the yard or put out to tender, and whether she is prepared to invest in the yard to make it commercially competitive,” he said

“These decisions should have been taken already but instead the SNP Government have focused on delivering a ferry which is late and overbudget.”

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