Anger as state-owned Ferguson Marine loses £100m CalMac ferries contract to overseas firms

A ROW has blown up after nationalised Ferguson Marine failed to be in the running for a £100m contract to create two new lifeline vessels to serve Islay.

Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which owns the nation’s ageing ferry fleet, have invited four overseas companies to bid for the contract to build two vessels to serve Islay.

It had orginally sought to award a contract estimated at over £50m for just one in March 2022.

Four shipyards were shortlisted for the work and have received an invitations to tender for the work – but none are in Scotland.

The successful bids are from Damen Shipyard in Romania, Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland, and Turkish shipyards Sefine Denizcilik Tersanecilik Turizm, and Cemre Marin Endustri.

READ MORE: Revealed: Execs extended working life of Scotland’s beleaguered ferry fleet by 15 years in ‘ruse’

It has been confirmed Ferguson Marine embarked in a bid for the contract through the initial Pre-Qualification Questionnaire process but failed to make the shortlist.

The nationalised shipbuilder said it was “a disappointing outcome”.

It comes a matter of days after Alex Salmond’s Alba party called on ministers to directly award all future CalMac ferry orders to nationalised Ferguson Marine.

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And now Alba deputy leader Kenny MacAskill has slammed what he called the “betrayal” of the Ferguson Marine workforce.

Mr MacAskill whose biography of Jimmy Reid, who led the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders industrial action in the early 70s,said: “As per Jimmy Reid’s majestic rectoral address: ‘The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people.’ I agree but you’ve got to give them the work. Jimmy would be appalled that the SNP that he had joined would sit on their hands and fail to direct CMAL to award ferry contracts to Ferguson’s.

“This is a disgraceful decision, a betrayal and a real ‘kick in the teeth’ to the workers at Ferguson’s. Orders should be going to Fergusons to keep the yard in business and the people employed. Instead what we see is hundreds of thousands of pounds in exorbitant fees to highly paid executives enriching themselves while the workers face an uncertain future.”

Tim Hair, the turnaround director of the now state-owned ferry company has been paid over £1.5m for 454 days work.Official Scottish Government figures have revealed that Tim Hair’s invoiced fees at the taxpayer’s expense as head of nationalised Ferguson Marine works out at nearly £3,000 a day – making him one of the UK’s highest-earning public servants.

Mr McAskill added: “The chair and board of CMAL must go and the minister should consider his position. There must be a clear commitment from the Scottish Government that they will directly award all future CalMac Ferry orders to Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow. Otherwise you have to ask what is the point of the SNP being in government if they will not act to defend the Scottish working class when their jobs, communities and livelihoods are under threat.”

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer added: “This another bitter blow and further evidence of the lack of an industrial strategy for Scotland. Lifeline ferries sailing in Scottish waters need to be built in Scotland.

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“We know that workers at Ferguson’s and their union the GMB will fight tooth and nail to secure future work for the yard and we will do all that we can to support them.”

GMB Scotland union organiser Gary Cook added: “The manufacture of the ships Scotland needs will now be exported to the rest of the world – our commercial shipbuilding sector is mirroring the failure of our offshore wind sector.

“This is the price communities pay for political failure, in over two decades of devolution Scotland still does not have an industrial plan that properly invests in jobs and infrastructure.

READ MORE: Anger as Scotland’s ferry fleet deemed too ‘big for islands and a taxpayer burden’

“You don’t need to look hard to learn the lessons of this latest bad news story or to understand why Scotland keeps losing the manufacturing contracts we desperately need.”

CMAL said it had adhered to the Scottish Government’s procurement process, and that after the Scottish Parliamentary inquiry its assessments process is “stronger than ever” and includes third party reviews.

“Each submission was assessed rigorously by industry experts at CMAL against financial and technical criteria,” a spokesman said.

Ferguson Marine which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde was nationalised after it financially collapsed in August 2019, amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries.

It came five years after tycoon Jim McColl first rescued the yard when it went bust.

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The delivery of new island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, was found to be between four and five years late, with costs doubling to over £200m.

In June it emerged that the completion of the long-overdue ferries had been delayed again, with Ferguson Marine blaming the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of skilled labour.

The Islay route is already one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network, and CMAL says that the incoming ferries will support the island’s vital economic activity. The four shortlisted shipyards will now submit their technical and commercial proposals for the design and construction of the two vessels.

CMAL said that each submission will be rigorously assessed against “quality, technical and commercial criteria”, and 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.”

CMAL said the new vessels will have greater vehicle capacity than the current ferries on the route, and will have “significantly lower energy requirement”.

It said they will be designed with a clear focus on freight, including the capability to operate a possible overnight freight service.

“The invitation to tender (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,” added Mr Anderson.

A spokesman for state-owned Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) said: “Clearly, this is a disappointing outcome. We worked hard to put forward a robust case for selection for the first stage of the tender process. However, we recognise CMAL is running a thorough procurement process and we respect the decision. We will take relevant learnings on board to inform other bids.

“Scotland’s public sector ferries will, of course, continue to be future business targets for the shipyard, but they are not the sole focus. We believe there is a significant opportunity for contracts and business growth in the build of complex vessels in the 40 to 100m range, which includes offshore patrol vessels and service operation vessels. We are actively pursuing opportunities of this nature, which exist in Scotland and around the world, and we remain highly focused on completion of the dual fuel ferry project, which is a top priority.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992