FERRY bosses have warned that further delays to two new vessels being introduced to Scottish waters is contributing to “major disruption” for islanders.

The production of two new ferries has been struck with delays – while the budget of the Scottish Government project has doubled.

Figures released last month revealed that more than 1,000 CalMac sailings were cancelled in 2019 because of mechanical problems.

Duncan Mackison, chief executive officer of David MacBrayne Limited and Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac Ferries, are set to appear before MSPs at an inquiry into the fiasco on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, David MacBrayne Limited and CalMac Ferries said that the Scottish Ferries Plan in 2013 has resulted in “vessels being worked longer and harder than ever before” while “simultaneously ageing”.

READ MORE: Breakdowns of CalMac ferries up by a third last year

The statement adds: “As we have no spare vessels, any technical breakdowns result in major disruption for communities. While significant funds have been invested in vessel resilience, it is inevitable that the risk of technical disruption will increase as the fleet continues to age.

“The two new vessels were due into service in 2018. They would have delivered much-needed additional capacity and improved resilience on the Ardrossan-Brodick and Uig-Tarbert/Lochmaddy routes, enabled a cascade of vessels to improve capacity on other routes including Oban-Craignure and Mallaig-Armadale, and reduced the average age of the fleet.

“This would have also released a spare vessel that could have been used, subject to available funding, as a relief vessel which would have helped provide resilience to communities when technical breakdowns occur.”

Once completed, the two vessels will become the first UK-built shops to be fuelled by both diesel and liquified natural gas (LNG).

Estimates suggest that the two new ferries will need between four and six road tanker loads of LNG between them each week, in order to run on the fuel.

The ferry chiefs also urged that the use of LNG is likely to “remain as a significant marine fuel for the foreseeable future” – but warned that “infrastructure remains limited”.

They added: “LNG remains a bridging fuel between traditional marine fuels and more technically advanced alternative fuels. However, the use of LNG is likely to further increase in future years and remain as a significant marine fuel for the foreseeable future.

READ MORE: CalMac ferries could face further delays due to 'firefighter training' by crews

“Another alternative technology is battery-electric propulsion; however, this is currently only suitable for very short segments, typically 30 minutes or less. For such services to operate in electric only mode, powerful shore-based charging infrastructure is required, which may not be available in the more remote areas of west Scotland.

“As the routes that 801/802 will operate are largely in excess of 30 minutes, LNG currently remains the most suitable technology to drive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to monitor emerging technologies across the maritime industry.”