Scottish shipyard workers doubt long-delayed ferries will ever set sail

The CalMac Ro-Pax ferry Glen Sannox. As of November 2022, the vessel remains unfinished nearly five years after it first took to the water. (Photo: Ferguson Marine)

Workers at Scottish government-owned shipyard Ferguson Marine have expressed fears that the two passenger ferries currently under construction at its facilities on the River Clyde will ever commence operational sailings, local news outlet Scottish Daily Express reports.

The Ro-Pax ferry Glen Sannox (pictured) and a second yet-unnamed vessel, tentatively named Hull 802, were originally slated to enter service in the first half of 2018 under the banner of local operator Caledonian MacBrayne.

However, delays and other issues have caused the ferries’ construction to fall considerably behind schedule and to repeatedly exceed budget estimates. Under the new timetable, both vessels will not enter service until next year and with their acquisition cost by then having more than tripled from £97 million (US$118 million) to £350 million (US$425.8 million).

Staff at Ferguson Marine began raising their doubts in the wake of recent risk assessments, which showed a reduced likelihood of state-owned company Caledonian Maritime Assets ever taking delivery of the completed ferries due to their failure to meet design requirements. For instance, essential components that would have enabled Glen Sannox to run on LNG fuel will not be initially available, forcing the vessel to sail only on diesel during its first few weeks of operation.

Some employees stated in a company meeting held in October that there was a risk the ferries “may not be considered fit for purpose once they are completed.”

Other concerns raised included those in relation to the ferries’ parts. Some staff remarked that the parts are already rendered obsolete after these were left undisturbed for a “considerable amount of time” and therefore no longer covered by their respective warranties.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government has nonetheless assured that the government is continuing to prioritise the vessels’ completion to ensure the future of the shipyard and its workforce.

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