The steel-cutting ceremony took place at Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard in Turkey, where the two vessels are being built for Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).The new 94.8-metre vehicle passenger ferries will each have capacity for up to 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles.
This will provide a combined 40% increase in vehicle and freight capacity on the Islay routes, improving the overall resilience of the wider fleet. The Scottish Government say that carbon reduction has been a key factor in vessel design and the new ferries are expected to deliver a significant reduction in emissions.
This initial stage of the build will see the construction of the first blocks being carried out under cover, before being relocated to the slipway to be assembled in a process called keel laying. Work at the shipyard is progressing well; the team at Cemre is delivering each stage within the agreed timeline. I’m sure this will be welcome news for island communities to see the build programme get underway for these much-needed vessels.Kevin Hobbs, chief executive, CMAL
Massive investment in island connectivity
The £91mn contract to build the two ferries was awarded by CMAL to Cemre Marin Endustri in Turkey in March 2022 after a competitive procurement process. The first vessel is expected to be delivered by October 2024 and will enter service following sea trials and crew familiarisation. The second vessel will follow in early 2025.
The Islay vessels form part of a 10-year programme of investment by CMAL, backed by £580 million from the Scottish Government for five years from 2021 to 2026. Plans will deliver 21 new vessels for the fleet and a multi-million-pound upgrade of harbour infrastructure over the next decade. Further multi-million-pound investment will be needed to fund plans from 2026 onwards.
Ferguson Marine “disappointed” it missed out
The nationalised Ferguson shipyard missed out on the order to build the new ferries. There were 11 applicants for the contract to replace the ships on the Argyll route, including the Inverclyde yard. But when it was eliminated from consideration in September of last year, four yards in Poland, Romania, and Turkey were left to submit tenders.
Ferguson Marine stated at the time that it was “disappointed” but would benefit from the experience as it looked for work going forward.
Could Ferguson Marine be involved in future work?
It’s no secret that the two troubled vessels currently being built at the yard – Hull 802 and the Glen Sannox – will be more than £150mn over budget and five years late.The structural completion of Hull 802, which had been scheduled to begin in September 2022, will now happen in 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.
All of the above being said, activity at the yard appears to be increasing and if recent statements are anything to go by, I think the transparency the yard now appears to be committed to shows a far more professional situation than the yard’s workforce endured previously. More so, the yard winning third-party work on behalf of a military shipbuilder upriver in Govan requires quality, precision and exacting standards. It’s a very big deal when it comes to sustaining the future of the Port Glasgow yard and, in my opinion, it demonstrates the trust the shipbuilding industry has in the Port Glasgow shipyard.
Yes, there are setbacks – massive setbacks actually – but the largest shipbuilder in the country has given them a vote of confidence and that speaks volumes for the potential of the yard to win some of the planned work in the coming years.
How will Scotland benefit from the work being done in Turkey?
Quite simply, getting more hulls in the water as quickly as possible.
Speaking to the BBC, Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said she was pleased to see CMAL name a preferred bidder. “These links are some of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network and the new vessels will help to grow the island’s economy, as well as bring added resilience to the fleet.”
The Scottish Government also say that the new vessels “will bring an almost 40% increase in vehicle and freight capacity on the Islay routes, a reduction in emissions and improve the resilience of the wider fleet.”
The new ships will replace MV Hebridean Isles and allow another ferry, MV Finlaggan, to be redeployed to another route. The priority, for now, is connecting our island communities.
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