NATIONALISED shipyard firm Ferguson Marine failed to even bid for the work on building two new lifeline ferries - before it was again awarded to the Turkish firm that was favourite.

Transport Scotland has said it is hoped that both ferries will be in place by 2026 and that they will serve the communities of Harris and North Uist, which have suffered severe disruption since the beginning of this year.

The Scottish Government agency had previously confirmed that the new ferries will be built to the same specification as those which are already being designed and built in Turkey for Islay.

They said it would “speed up” the replacement of the major vessel fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes, “providing potential economies of scale and enhanced public value”.

And it has emerged that that is one of the reasons that the state-owned shipyard firm did not even try to bid for the work.

Industry insiders said this gave the Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard in Turkey, which had already won a contract to provide two ferries for Islay a "strong competitive advantage" having produced the blueprint through the Islay tender process.

State-owned ferry owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) has already said that the preferred bidder to build the two new ferries to support the communities at Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert (Harris) is Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard firm.

Ferguson Marine had failed to get past the first Pre Qualification Questionnaire hurdle in the Islay ferries contract and is still struggling to produce two delayed vessels.

The Herald:

The two ferries at the centre of Scotland's shipbuilding fiasco, MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, with one to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, are at least five years late, with costs expected to soar from £97m to nearly £350m.

It has emerged that Ferguson Marine conducted a detailed analysis of bidding for the contract but concluded that, based on the associated documents published, the probability of winning the contract was "sufficiently low to recommend declining to bid".

Papers associated with the decision showed that it was believed that the qualification conditions in the tender documents contained criteria Ferguson Marine could not meet.

Key factors incuded that the two vessels in the series had already been awarded to Cemre Marin Endustri.

"The additional two vessels were of the same design, giving Cemre Marine Endustri a substantial schedule and cost advantage," one paper stated.

There was also concern about the deadline for a tender response.

Work has already started on the construction of the first of two new lifeline ferries for Islay in Turkey after the £105m contract was controversially given to Cemre Marin Endustri nine months ago.

The two newest vessels being built in Turkey are expected to be like the Islay ferries, 310 foot long with the capacity to take up to 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles.

It is hoped that all the ferries will be in place by 2026 and that the two newest will serve the communities of Harris and North Uist, which have suffered severe disruption since the beginning of this year.

It is already known that the four vessels currently under construction will replace 40-year-old MV Isle of Arran, 38-year-old Mv Hebridean Isles and 34-year-old MV Lord of the Isles.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has previously said they intended to deploy the latest ferries on the Skye triangle routes - freeing up Hull 802 to potentially join Glen Sannox in serving Arran, one of the country's busiest routes.


The two vessels are expected to initially replace 23-year-old MV Hebrides.

In the first contract award to Turkey, CMAL, which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet, had invited four overseas companies to bid to build the two vessels bound for Islay - and excluded Inverclyde shipbuilder Ferguson Marine.

The shipbuilder which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde was nationalised after it financially collapsed in August 2019, amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries.

The award to Turkey was described by Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson as "an embarrassment for the SNP".