Ferguson Marine chief executive, David Tydeman, said Ministry of Defence work could potentially provide a “solid base” for the future of the troubled Port Glasgow ferry builders.
Tydeman insisted the shipyard was now in much better shape and ready to re-establish its reputation with new orders.
“We have the opportunity, starting with [hull] 802 over the next year, to show we are as good as we were 10 years ago,” he said.
Speaking to the BBC, Tydeman said the yard has recently secured some new work for BAE Systems, delivering Type 26 frigates. Adding that despite the difficulties with the current CalMac ships, the yard is also hopeful of future work for the state-run ferry operator, particularly for smaller vessels similar to ferries the yard has successfully delivered in the past. Tydeman added that seven planned CalMac vessels, along with Ministry of Defence work, could potentially provide a “solid base” of work for the next five to ten years.
“They are exactly in our sweet spot of what we could do well. We’ve just got to price them properly and deliver them on time – and win some hearts and minds to give us that contract.”Ferguson Marine chief executive, David Tydeman
A history of bidding for naval work
Unfortunately, Ferguson Marine missed the boat a couple of years ago on the chance to carry out supply-chain work for the Type 31 frigates being built on the east coast. Then defence secretary Michael Fallon visited the Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow in 2017 where he remarked upon the opportunity for the Clyde yard to build the new frigates. Babcock, Thales, BMT, Harland & Wolff and Ferguson Marine had teamed up to form ‘Team 31’ a consortium to bid for the Type 31 Frigate.
“Team 31 will allow Babcock and Thales to take forward the key lessons from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and apply them in a new and highly capable team with Harland & Wolff, BMT and Ferguson Marine.”Babcock CEO Archie Bethel
While Babcock eventually won the bid, Ferguson Marine was no longer able to receive any work due to issues at the yard. After Harland & Wolff and Ferguson Marine both collapsed into administration, Bethel told the Financial Times that both yards would still “get a chance to bid” but the company “would not risk the programme” subcontracting work out to them.
On a brighter note for the yard, as it exists today Ferguson Marine had recently said they intended to work with defence contractor BAE Systems “to re-engage with them as a supply-chain partner” for the eight, complex Type 26 frigates being built upriver. Ferguson say this third-party work will contribute millions to the costs of running the shipyard and help sustain workforce skills. As fortune would have it, Ferguson got the work.
The company stated, “The FMPG board also approved our acceptance of a letter of intent from BAe for FMPG to re-engage with them as a supply-chain partner for their T-26 programme. This type of 3rd party work will develop during the next 3-6 months, and we have assumed will contribute ~£6-7m to the costs of running the shipyard through to handover of 802 (thus reducing the costs charged to Glen Sannox and 801 in 2023/24 by this amount) and creating work for staff not required on the ferries as commissioning of Glen Sannox progresses through to handover.
“Overall, the revised best estimates of costs to complete include assumptions on efficiency improvements, contributions from 3rd party work, allowances for inflationary pressures and other economic factors such as cost of living, energy costs, and, importantly, sensible estimates of contingencies that may be required.”
The third-party work on behalf of a military shipbuilder upriver in Govan requires quality, precision and exacting standards. It’s cause of celebration when it comes to sustaining the future of the Port Glasgow yard and demonstrates the trust the shipbuilding industry has in the Port Glasgow shipyard.
Looking ahead to a brighter, more transparent future
It’s no secret that two vessels, Hull 802 and the Glen Sannox, will be more than £150m over budget and five years late.
The structural completion of Hull 802, which had been scheduled to begin in September 2022, has been push back to late November of this year. With final dry docking and trials finished by the first quarter of 2024, practical completion is now scheduled for the end of December 2023.
Activity at the yard appears to be increasing and ,if recent statements are anything to go by, the transparency the yard now appears to be committed to shows a far more professional situation than the yard’s workforce endured previously. There may be setbacks – massive in some respects – but the largest shipbuilder in the country has given them a vote of confidence and that speaks volumes.