Equipment on delayed ferries has ‘deteriorated’

It has taken so long to build two CalMac ferries in Port Glasgow that much of the equipment installed since 2016 “may have deteriorated” and will become a “challenge” in meeting revised delivery dates.

By Brian Wilson
Friday, 8th October 2021, 10:21 am
The ferries have been delayed so long, it is now feared the equipment already installed has "deteriorated"
The ferries have been delayed so long, it is now feared the equipment already installed has "deteriorated"

This latest twist emerges from the three-monthly update provided to MSPs on a Holyrood committee by Tim Hare, the £800,000 a year “turnaround” consultant hired by the Scottish Government after it took over the Ferguson shipyard.

Mr Hare warns: “Although surveys, remediation and replacement have taken place under Government ownership there is an unquantifiable risk that equipment problems may emerge during commissioning”.

While Mr Hare claims that the delivery dates for the two vessels have not been delayed any further, this comes with a number of warnings about “risks” which “we are working hard to eliminate … to ensure successful delivery of the vessels”

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In the case of Hull 802, which is unnamed but eventually destined for the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert triangle, the proposed delivery date is in the summer of 2023.

Hull 801 was named the Glen Sannox when “launched” by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017 and is earmarked for the Arran route.

Hull 802 was supposed to enter service in 2019. The minimum of four years delay has contributed to widespread chaos within CalMac services.

As operators, CalMac were allowed to play no part in the design or commissioning of the vessels which was the responsibility of another Scottish Government quango, Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd (CMAL).

Mr Hare states that “overseas workers, who are in fabrication trades, have integrated well into the working of the yard and are delivering high quality work… The number of overseas workers is being increased from 60 to 90 in early October, with the potential for more if required”.

Outlining another area of “risk”, Mr Hare states: “Ferguson uses seven separate data systems to run the business, and these do not communicate with each other.

"In order to have technical information and material available in the right place at the right time it is necessary to link three core systems and achieving this has proved more challenging than expected”.

“Manual controls have been implemented to link the systems and improve workflow, but these are complex vessels with over 16,000 different parts currently held in stock and it is necessary to create active links between the systems”.

On future prospects, Mr Hare writes: “We have assessed the market that is available to Ferguson and concluded that the business can compete effectively for complex vessels, built to high standards, in the 40m to 110m range.

“While under Government ownership Ferguson has completed two vessels for the Scottish aquaculture industry, both below 30m and built to the workboat construction codes, and we have concluded that the business cannot effectively compete with specialists in these markets”.

The Ferguson yard recently failed to be short-listed for two further CMAL orders for the Islay route, with yards in Turkey, Poland and Romania invited to bid.