The launch of two long-awaited CalMac vessels has been delayed yet again amid anger that islanders are being left “in limbo” when it comes to lifeline ferry services.
Yesterday, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse admitted that the most recent targets for the delivery of the boats, which are being built on the Clyde, will be missed.
In a letter to Holyrood’s Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Wheelhouse said the Hull 802 vessel, earmarked for routes between Skye and Harris, would not be ready by its most recent spring 2020 deadline.
He also said the other dual fuel vessel – the Glen Sannox – destined for the Ardrossan to Brodick route, will not be ready this summer as previously hoped.
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The minister said the delay was “extremely disappointing” given the Scottish Government’s £45 million loan to Ferguson Marine shipyards to build the boats for Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).
CMAL is the Scottish Government owned organisation which runs ferry infrastructure and works with the boats’ operators, CalMac.
Politicians were angered by the delay and called on the Scottish Government and Ferguson’s to get a grip on the project, which has already fallen badly behind schedule.
CalMac’s ageing fleet has been of long-standing concern with ferry users suffering a “summer of discontent” last year as a result of break-downs and disrupted services.
Independent Skye Councillor John Finlayson said: “All the ferry users on Skye and the West Coast are very concerned about the delay and the impact it is having on their communities.
“The Scottish Government and Ferguson shipyards need to get their acts together and get things moving.”
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson, Colin Smyth MSP, said: “Scotland’s island communities are being let down by the SNP.
“The failure of the Scottish Government to get a grip on this project and bring all parties together, including government-owned CMAL, is leaving island communities in limbo land.”
The Ferguson Marine shipyard, which is owned by billionaire Jim McColl and is based in Port Glasgow, won the £97 million contract to build the ferries in 2015.
The Glen Sannox was originally supposed to be ready by summer last year with the Hull 802 following a few months later.
In his letter, Mr Wheelhouse referred to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd’s most recent expectation that the Arran ferry would be ready by summer next year and the Hebridean one ready by spring 2020.
But he added: “While FMEL have not formally advised Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) that there will be any change to these dates it is clear that they will not be achieved.”
A CMAL spokeswoman said the agency was waiting for an update from FMEL and urged the shipyard to “focus” on finishing the ferries.
FMEL were unavailable for comment.