Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek MacKay, has marked the formal start of construction of two new 100-metre ferries for the Clyde and Hebrides network at Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) on the Clyde.
Mr Mackay started the computer-guided laser to cut the ceremonial first steel for the vessels, currently known as Hull 801 and Hull 802, and met some of the workforce who will help build them.
One of the new 100-metre vessels (pictured) will service the North Uist – Skye – Harris triangle route.
A £97 million contract for the construction of the ferries was signed in October 2015, securing around 150 existing jobs in the Port Glasgow and Inverclyde area. New jobs will also be created at the shipyard as a result of FMEL winning the contract, as part of the company’s overall growth strategy.
FMEL will undertake the detailed design and construction work of the new ‘dual fuel’ vessels in Scotland, as well as their testing, equipping, launching and delivery. The new vessels will join the fleet, owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).
CMAL representatives discussed the design of the new ferries with members of the community from North Uist and Benbecula earlier this month. The first is expected to be delivered in May 2018, with the second vessel following a few months later.
Mr Mackay said: “I’m delighted to help cut the first steel for these new ferries, marking the start of construction on this massive project that has brought large shipbuilding back to the Clyde.
“The Scottish Government is committed to creating the vital jobs needed to boost local economies and help stimulate growth across Scotland. This £97 million contract means FMEL can retain its 150-strong workforce, as well as take on more staff and apprentices.
“The ferries themselves will be welcome additions to the Clyde and Hebrides network, helping the Scottish Government to continue to provide safe and reliable services for the communities that depend on them.
“The vessels will also be ‘dual-fuel ferries’, allowing them to use cleaner fuel and future-proofing them for the advent of tighter regulations around sulphur emissions.
“I look forward to seeing these new ferries join the West Coast ferry fleet in the future.”
FMEL Managing Director, Liam Campbell said: “Cutting first steel on these two vessels from CMAL signifies an important milestone for the yard and will allow the workforce to steadily grow over the next years. Our new facility will provide highly efficient state-of-the-art shipbuilding and fabrication services to customers in all sectors.
“We look forward to working closely with CMAL and CalMac on this project to ensure world class vessels for a world class owner and operator”.
Erik Østergaard, Chair of CMAL said: “Today’s steel cutting ceremony marks the first important milestone in the construction of these innovative dual-fuel ferries, as work gets underway to build the first vessel.
“Hulls 801 and 802 will become the latest vessels in our fleet and strengthen our commitment to using cutting edge technology and design to create sustainable and reliable ferries and we look forward to the first of these vessels going into service in 2018. This construction project is the latest step in our ambitious fleet renewal plans to ensure our ferries continue to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”