This article appears as part of the Scotland's Ferries newsletter.

Moves to upgrade a major Scottish port to allow it to take much delayed and over budget ferries are in limbo and will not be ready when they set sail with costs expected to have doubled, it can be revealed.

Business minister Ivan McKee insisted in September 2022 that the harbour and port infrastructure at Ardrossan would be ready to take the two lifeline ferries when they finally set sail after being built at the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard in Inverclyde.

But the Ardrossan harbour debacle has been described as as much of a farce as the ferry fiasco which has stained the Scottish Government's reputation.

The Scottish Government-owned ferry operator CalMac has already been planning to use Troon rather than Ardrossan for the two ferries that will serve Arran. That was when it was hoped that the first of the vessels would be ready for passengers in the Spring of last year.

Scottish Government sources have confirmed that the full business case for the project remains incomplete and that there is even uncertainty over the project costs, consequently the project has still to be put out to tender.

There are understood to have been issues over how the cost – which in 2022 was estimated at £40m – would be divided between the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, the harbour owner Peel Ports and North Ayrshire Council.

And the Ardrossan Steering Group was told by Transport Scotland officials that as of May, the estimated cost is thought to have doubled which it is said was "reflective of the market conditions within the construction industry".

However, there have since been further discussions amongst funding partners over the required project scope – which could set the costs even higher.

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The improvement works, as of November, did not include the replacement or strengthening of the Winton Pier and Irish Berth which in certain wind conditions ferries use to manoeuvre out of the harbour.

According to one letter from the Scottish Government to the Ardrossan Harbour Task Force, made up of the potential funding partners and co-ordinated by the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, concerns about the integrity of the quay walls have been heightened following recent structural failures to parts.

The walls were expected to provide support to an LNG tank, which would be used to help fuel the vessels.

Fiona Hyslop, the transport minister, in a letter to the task force has said that the outcome of the business case is not now expected till February.

"I fully appreciate this will be disappointing. However, it is essential that the scope of works is clearly defined in order to have greater certainty of the project costs and financial package required."

Landside facilities including terminal building, car parking and other infrastructure estimated to cost in the region of £12m were expected to be ready this year.

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An indicative project programme was presented to the ministerial task force early last year which then indicated that construction was expected to begin this spring with completion by spring 2026 – too late for either of the ferries.

Both ferries were due online in the first half of 2018, with one initially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, but are at least six years late, with costs expected to be quadruple the original £97m contract. It has been confirmed that both are now to serve Arran.

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The second of the two ferries Glen Rosa was meant to be delivered to CalMac in August 2018, but that is currently scheduled for May 2025.

The vessel's sister ship, Glen Sannox, was launched by Nicola Sturgeon six years ago and is due for delivery next spring.

But the dates of arrival have been constantly in a state of flux as their construction has been plagued by design challenges, cost overruns and delays.

The £97m contract was awarded by government-owned ferry procurement and port owning agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited in 2015 when the shipyard was led by businessman Jim McColl.

Both CMAL and Mr McColl's company Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited later blamed each other for the problems encountered during the build, and the yard collapsed into administration in 2019 before being nationalised.

One ferry user group official said: "While everyone has been rightly concentrating on what is happening with the ferries, the Ardrossan harbour debacle has gone under the radar and is as much of a farce as it clearly won't be ready to take these already delayed ferries that are being built to use it.

"The planning surrounding getting Ardrossan ready is about as useful as a paper kettle."

Mr McKee had insisted in September 2022, that the works in Ardrossan would be resolved before Glen Sannox was operational.

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It comes as Cunningham North MSP Kenneth Gibson said people were "beyond frustrated" with the lack of communication from Ardrossan Harbour's operators in the wake of safety issues with the Irish berth at Ardrossan harbour, owned by port operator Peel Ports.

Mr Gibson said Peel Ports had been "less than forthcoming" about the safety concerns identified by divers and has asked the transport minister what information had been shared by Peel Ports.

He said: "Trying to get information from Peel Ports... was like trying to get blood out of a stone. There is clearly a breakdown in trust locally with Peel Ports due to its lack of investment in Ardrossan harbour over decades."

Peel Ports has been approached for comment.