REMEDIAL work has begun on a heavily delayed vessel at the centre of Scotland's £230m lifeline ferry building fiasco - with the help of the award of a new taxpayer-funded £400,000 contract to a Scots firm without going out to tender.

MV Glen Sannox destined for the Arran to Ardrossan route and currently nearly four years behind schedule has been moved down the Clyde to Greenock to have her problematic bulbous bow replaced.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Work on delayed ferry progresses.Camley's Cartoon: Work on delayed ferry progresses.

It will also have to undergo paint repair, removal of marine growth from the vessel hull, and other work.

Now Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine described the move as a "major step to completion" of both it and a second vessel, known only as Hull 902, which was supposed to be delivered to Calmac in the first half of 2018 for use on the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert triangle. It is also around four years behind schedule.

READ MORE: Law Society of Scotland issues state aid warning to government over ferries fiasco

The repairs and rework were identified during the review of the condition of the two dual fuel vessels, conducted after the shipyard went into administration in August 2019, and are included in the programme review board report published in December 2019.

HeraldScotland:

The Herald can reveal that the move comes after Aberdeen-based Dales Marine Services (Greenock) Ltdwas awarded a £400,000 contract to provide the dry docking facilities close to the Ferguson shipyard without going to a competitive tender.

According to the details of the contract, the facilities were needed to perform "essential below waterline work" described as "critical" to the MV Glen Sannox build.

Dales Marine Services was said to be the only local dry docking facility that can offer a full service provision. Its dry dock is two miles from the Ferguson Port Glasgow yard.

Like other contract awards in the project, it was awarded without prior publication of a call for competition in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The contractual reason given was that the services could only be provided by a "particular economic operator" and said that the absence of competition was for "technical reasons".

Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd, said: “This is a key milestone in the recovery programme for the dual fuel vessels. Some work has been carried out on MV Glen Sannox at the shipyard, but the dry dock period is important because it will bring the vessel up to a condition that will allow us to move forward in earnest with the vessel completion plan.

HeraldScotland:

“It is also another clear sign of recovery for the shipyard business and comes only weeks after the launch of a steel barge for a customer in the offshore oil and marine sector."

The Herald revealed in April that state owned Ferguson Marine had ploughed nearly £3m into two companies without going to competitive tender to help resolve the fiasco over the delivery of the two lifeline ferries.

A £2.12m contract was made to Isle of Man-based International Contract Engineering Ltd to supply engineering servies for the stalled construction of MV Glenn Sannox to "correct and complete" the design.

Details of the taxpayer spend comes after it emerged £777,500 was given to Kirkintilloch-based Alliance Project Controls Ltd to supervise the construction work. That contract also did not go out to competitive tender.

The Scottish Government took Ferguson Marine into public ownership at the end of last year after the Port Glasgow yard fell into administration while the cost of delivering the ferries soared from £97m to over £195m. The former management of Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) said they believed that that has now soared to over £300m.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Hair added: “Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has impacted activity at the shipyard, but our workforce has been returning to outdoor working since the end of June and we are operating effectively with social distancing controls in place.”

MV Glen Sannox is scheduled to return to the Ferguson shipyard at the end of August.

The yard collapsed last summer owing more than £49m to the Scottish government, and it was eventually taken into public ownership.

It led to a war of words between former Ferguson owner, tycoon Jim McColl, the Scottish government and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the taxpayer-funded company which owns and procures ferries.

It led to concerns about the nation's ferry procurement process now engulfed in four levels of Scottish Government-controlled bodies - CMAL, Ferguson Marine as ferry builders, Transport Scotland as funders, and ferry operators CalMac.

In February, the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog warned of the dangers of government-owned Ferguson Marine being awarded work without a competitive tender process, saying “it is unlikely to make it a commercially sustainable business” and “it may also have a negative impact on the wider industry”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These contracts were awarded in line with Regulation 33 (1) of Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015."