Completion of long-overdue ferries has been delayed again, with Ferguson Marine blaming the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of skilled labour.
The nationalised boat builder is making two ferries for CalMac for use around the Scottish islands.
Both were originally scheduled to be in operation by 2018 but the latest prediction is that one will be completed between July and September 2022 and the other will be delivered between April and July 2023.
In its latest update to the Scottish Parliament, Ferguson Marine also revealed the ferries will cost another £1 million.
It said the impact of the pandemic this year has pushed the completion date back a further seven weeks – in addition to the added six months announced last year.
Meanwhile a shortage of skilled workers locally has added a further eight-week delay, with work subcontracted and overseas staff being brought in.
Ferguson Marine now calculates the additional cost due to the pandemic has reached £4.3 million, on top of the overall project budget of £110.3 million.
The ferry expected to be finished first – known as the MV Glen Sannox – has had a funnel and mast constructed and installed as well as work on the structure around the stern and inside the hull.
The first layers of protective paint have also been applied on to the aluminium exterior.
Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine, said: “I know the further delay to the project will be a disappointment to island communities and others who await the arrival of the new ferries.
“There remains a lot of work to do on the vessels, but it is important to recognise the level of progress too, as well as the significant operational improvements we have implemented to introduce robust and effective business processes.
“We have, in effect, created a functioning shipyard business from a standing start.
“The past year has been extremely challenging; we’ve been working under the restrictions and pressure of a global pandemic, and recruitment has proved difficult, with the pool of skilled workers insufficient to meet our resource requirements.
“However, we now enter a new phase of production.
“The milestone on MV Glen Sannox is highly significant because, for the first time in this project, we have a complete vessel structure to work with.
“Construction is also progressing on Hull 802, with the first new units recently lifted into place.
“We have reached an important turning point from reworking the past to building the future.
“We are doing everything possible to deliver the dual fuel ferry programme, improve productivity, secure contracts for future vessels, and protect local jobs.”
Responding to the announcement, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “This is simply not good enough.
“Time and time again, our island communities have been failed by this process with costs spiralling out of control. There can be no further delays.
“Excuses won’t solve the transport crisis which is crippling Scotland’s islands economies.
“Government ministers must take responsibility for ensuring these vital ferries are finished as soon as possible.”