Civil service fears over ferries delivery

Prospects for maintaining even the latest schedule for delivery of the two CalMac ferries at the Ferguson yard remain fraught with risk, according to the latest documents published by the Scottish Government.

By Brian Wilson
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:36 am
Work on the two new vessels continues, but there are still lingering concerns over even more delays and further additional costs.
Work on the two new vessels continues, but there are still lingering concerns over even more delays and further additional costs.

The unnamed vessel “802”, destined for the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy routes, is currently scheduled to be ready by the end of 2023, suggesting that it might be in service by summer of the following year. Originally, she should have been completed by July 2018.

These latest documents contain startling new information about the current state of the contract with continuing uncertainty about timescales and costs. Most strikingly, it emerges that design of the vessels remains “ongoing”, representing a “significant risk”.

Jim Anderson, director of vessels for CMAL, the Scottish Government’s procurement quango, wrote in March: “Ongoing design changes affecting the constructability of the vessels’ design are driven exclusively within the Shipyard process. All are directly related to outstanding technical queries (and) previously unidentified works. Concerns that the vessel construction design is not frozen at this late stage of the project should be seen as a significant risk, the impact of which is not currently accounted for in either vessel programme or risk register”.

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His report continued: “Yard-wide inefficiencies in onboard production supervision, project management's lack of understanding of the remaining project deliverables, and repetitive rework caused by inadequate construction design all remain substantial risks that will cause further delays if allowed to continue unchecked.”

He said the “routine failure” to recognise risk and delays “must be the subject of immediate detailed analysis”.

In a briefing to Ministers, Mo Rooney, deputy head of the Strategic Commercial Interventions Division, reinforced the warnings. Her paper, dated April 28th, is classified as “sensitive”.

She said “it remains difficult to assess if the build is on track”, and added: “Some of the performance information provided by FMPG (Ferguson) is largely generic and does not present the level of detail needed to determine the health of either project”.

Ms Rooney continues: “Officials do not yet have a profile of costs for the delivery of 801/802 and how this ties to key milestones and the programme for delivery.” She said it was vital “to track progress of the vessels to ensure we are able to identify and highlight slippage and potential cost over-runs early. This information is expected to be ready by the end of May”.

On a more upbeat note, Ms Rooney adds: “The arrival of the new Chief Executive, and his inclusive and consultative style of leadership, is having a positive impact on working relationships between Ferguson Marine and CMAL. The Chief Executive continues to show willingness to engage with CMAL and maximise the value of their knowledge”.

Recently appointed Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, John-Paul Marks, visited the yard last month and according to a civil service note “encouraged honesty over optimism”.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​