CalMac given go-ahead to order more ferries
Two further ferries will be ordered by the Scottish Government to help boost capacity and the reliability of vessels serving island communities.
The Government is making new money available to enable Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) to replace vessels in its fleet, with these first ships serving the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert,
The ships will be designed to the same specification as those being built in Turkey to serve Islay. The more standardised vessel type could be made available for a variety of routes, providing potential economies of scale and enhanced public value.
It is expected the contract will be awarded before the end of the year with overall project costs estimated at around £115 million, including allowance for minor port improvements.
Ministers will be determined to avoid a repeat of the cost over-run and delays that have dogged the two ferries being built by Ferguson Marine on the Clyde.
Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities, so I’m pleased to announce additional funding to allow CMAL to launch a procurement for two additional vessels for the CalMac fleet.
“Our intention is that these ferries would be deployed on the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, delivering dedicated services to communities in the peak season rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place.
“This will create the opportunity for significantly increased capacity and resilience for the communities of the Western Isles.
“It will also allow consideration of all options to deploy Vessel 802 [one of the Ferguson ferries] on an alternative route, including potentially alongside her sister ship, the MV Glen Sannox, to provide additional capacity to and from Arran in the peak season.
“All the options will be discussed with island communities at the appropriate time.”
Ms Gilruth added: “Since this government was elected in May 2021, we have bought and deployed an additional vessel in the MV Loch Frisa in June, previously chartered the MV Arrow to provide additional capacity, made significant progress in the construction of vessels 801 and 802, commissioned two new vessels for Islay and progressed investment to improve key ports and harbours.
“Now, we are delivering a further two new vessels as well as continuing to work on pursuing all reasonable and appropriate opportunities to enhance capacity and resilience in the short term through second hand vessels.”
Kevin Hobbs, Chief Executive at CMAL, said: “This is a highly welcome commitment from the Scottish Government, which allows us to increase the pace of vessel replacement plans in line with our ambitions.
“This additional investment will bring two new vessels to the fleet, meaning a total of six major vessels will be replaced by 2026. It also means communities in Harris and North Uist will benefit from a two vessel service, a move that will strengthen overall resilience.”
Scottish Labour Islands spokesperson Rhoda Grant described the announcement as “cold comfort” to islanders left waiting for vessels.
She said: “We need a national ferry building programme that replaces the CalMac fleet, provides the ferries islanders need, and provides jobs in the Scottish shipbuilding sector.
”Any extra capacity is always welcome, but this news will be cold comfort to the islanders still waiting for the last pair of ferries they were promised. They need ferries now.
“Scotland’s islands don’t have a functioning ferry network because of the SNP’s failure to deliver a functioning ferry fleet, and they still have no short-term solutions and no real long-term strategy.
“Islanders will be hoping that this isn’t the SNP’s attempt to cook up a back-up plan in case their botched ferries never sail.
“Islanders deserve a ferry network that works and Scottish shipbuilding need a real strategy – not ad hoc chaos from a government scrambling to make up for their own mistakes.”