‘Ducktail’ design could further delay Hull 802

Delivery of Hull 802 – destined for the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert routes – could be delayed even further because of a design change requested by the Scottish Government.

By Brian Wilson
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 9:50 am
The ferries are already five years behind schedule. Pic: John Devlin.
The ferries are already five years behind schedule. Pic: John Devlin.

This emerges from the valedictory report from Tim Hair, the turnaround consultant hired by the Scottish Government to work with the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow, where two CalMac ferries are running five years behind schedule.

Mr Hair, who was appointed on the basis of a telephone call with two civil servants, will leave the post next month when the bill for his services over 30 months expected to hit the £2 million mark.

This was his last quarterly update to Holyrood’s transport committee.

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He maintained that “delivery of 802 remains in the range 3rd April to 3rd July 2023” before proceeding to describe issues which could lead to further delay.

In particular, the “ducktail” factor seems to pose a significant challenge.

Mr Hair wrote: “The hull of 802 differs from 801 in that it has an extra feature known as a ducktail.

"This is an additional structure, the full width of the ship and approximately 2.5m long, which is designed to increase the speed of the vessel for a given power output from the engines.

"At their request, we have for some time been in discussion with Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and CMAL regarding the ducktail. These discussions have the potential to impact the schedule for delivery of the vessel and if this occurs we will update the Committee accordingly”.

More optimistically, Mr Hair says that foreign recruitment of skilled labour through sub-contractors is “working well”.

He had previously highlighted constraints caused by a shortage of skilled workers available locally or from the UK.

The overseas workers returned to their homes for Christmas “but, COVID permitting, they will return in January to continue work on the vessels”.

Mr Hair states that the Ferguson board “has reviewed, discussed and agreed the substance of this update”.

They found that “the progression of the Omicron variant has the potential to cause severe disruption at a critical time, but this cannot be quantified”.

The months of January and February are particularly crucial to delivery of Hull 801 – to be used on the Ardrossan-Brodick route and scheduled for this summer.Another “risk” quoted by Mr Hair and previously reported in the Gazette is that “much of the equipment for the ferries has been installed since 2016 and may have deteriorated since then… There is an unquantifiable risk that equipment problems may emerge during commissioning”.

Mr Hair is to be succeeded by a new managing director of Ferguson, David Tydeman, who previously ran a yacht building business in the south of England which went into liquidation in 2018 with the loss of 150 jobs.

On another front, the Gazette last week reported information obtained by former SNP Minister, Kenny MacAskill, that there are still no contracts or costings for the supply of LNG to the ferries which will supposedly be dual-fuel, using gas transported from Kent to CalMac ports.

Mr MacAskill described this as “astonishing”.