New Islay vessels will not be built in Scotland

Under construction, MV Glen Sannox pictured at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

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Two new ferries to serve Islay and Jura will not be built in Scotland – despite the Scottish Government owning a shipyard.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has invited bids for the contract to build two new ferries for Islay from two shipyards in Turkey, one in Romania and one in Poland.

The decision to look outwith Scotland and not to Ferguson Marine in Glasgow, which the Scottish Government brought into public ownership in 2019, is controversial, with Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron saying the failure of a Scottish shipyard to secure the contract to build the two new CalMac ferries for Islay and Jura represents ‘a devastating indictment’ of the SNP Government’s role in procuring new ferries for west coast communities.

He said: ‘As this saga has gone on and on, it’s impossible to think of a more comprehensive failure to serve our island communities or, indeed, the wider public interest, than this latest development.

‘This news represents a devastating indictment of the SNP Government which has now betrayed practically everyone interested in securing a reliable and resilient ferry service in Scotland, including those employed in the commercial shipbuilding industry.

‘The priority now, of course, must be on getting the new ferries built and in service as quickly as possible – island communities deserve nothing less.’

Thirty-five organisations expressed interest at the first stage of the procurement exercise and responses were received from 11 organisations.

Each submission was assessed rigorously against technical and financial criteria. The shortlisted shipyards will now submit their technical and commercial proposals for the design and construction of the two vessels.

The contract will be awarded to the winning shipyard no later than the end of March 2022.

Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL, said: ‘We received interest from many shipyards across the world and carried out robust assessment of their technical and financial suitability to take on this project.

‘Four shipyards scored the highest across both criteria and have now been issued an ITT for the contract.

‘This stage of the procurement process will take around six months and we hope to award the contract to the winning shipyard at the end of March 2022.

‘The ITT stage marks an important step forward in bringing a new vessel to Islay and Jura. It is one of several new vessel and harbour upgrade projects we are currently progressing to improve the resilience of ferry services for island communities.’

The new vessels will have greater vehicle capacity than the current vessels on the route and will have significantly lower energy requirement. They will be designed with a clear focus on freight, including the capability to operate a possible overnight freight service.

The Islay route is already one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network and the incoming ferries will support the island’s vital economic activity.

Sufficient passenger accommodation will be designed to meet an anticipated increase in passenger demand.