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CalMac Ferry Project Delayed Until 2024, Six Years Behind Schedule

Glen Sannox
Glen Sannox at launch in 2017 (Cameron Shaw / CC BY SA 4.0)

Published Aug 24, 2023 11:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

The long-delayed CalMac ferry project at Scottish shipbuilder Ferguson Marine has hit another snag. The first hull, Glen Sannox, is nearly complete after six years in the water - but safety regulators have determined that its design now requires extra ladderways and wider corridor doors. The changes will push back the timeline for the vessel's entry into service until the second half of 2024, after the busy summer season on its run to and from Arran. 

According to Ferguson Marine head David Tydeman, the UK Maritime and Coastguard agency "re-assessed the application of 'cargo ship' rules" for crew spaces aboard all passenger vessels, including the Glen Sannox. The revised interpretation requires "modifications to some doorways in crew corridors and three additional staircases [sic]."

The extra work will delay commissioning of Glen Sannox's LNG fuel system and the beginning of builder's trials, pushing back delivery and entry into service. 

The rework requirement is the latest in a long line of problems for Glen Sannox and sister ship Hull 802. The two ships were originally scheduled to deliver in 2018 at a total price of $125 million. After a series of design issues and contract disputes, the project fell behind schedule, and Ferguson Marine edged towards bankruptcy. In 2019, the Scottish government decided to nationalize the yard rather than risk a disorderly transition in ownership. A new naval architect was brought in to oversee remedial work, including a drydocking to replace the original bulbous bow. Between the delays and the rework issues, the two 1,200 dwt hulls are now on track to cost about $375-425 million.

"It was partly because the design wasn't finalized," said current Ferguson CEO David Tydeman, speaking to the BBC in June. "It's easy to look back and be critical, but the decision to build an empty ship and put things in later is unconventional and has added cost."

Glen Sannox has also turned into a political liability for the Scottish National Party (SNP). Last year, Audit Scotland found a "multitude of failings" in the government's work in structuring and overseeing the procurement contract. Key documents relating to the original order were discovered to have gone missing, forcing then-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to deny that there had been a cover-up.