NATIONALISED Ferguson Marine has failed to be in the running for an up to £100m contract to create two new lifeline vessels to serve Islay, it can be revealed.

Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) have invited bids for the contract to build two vessels to serve Islay - having orginally sought to award a contract estimated at over £50m for just one in March 2022.

CMAL said that after extensive consultation with Transport Scotland, CalMac, and communities on Islay, a decision has been made to build two vessels, which it said will provide "much needed new tonnage in the fleet and improve the resilience of the network".

Four shipyards have been shortlisted for the work and have received an invitations to tender for the work - but none are in Scotland.

READ MORE: Ferry fiasco: Two more vessels laid up as Alba demands radical changes

The successful bids are from Damen Shipyard in Romania, Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland, and Turkish shipyards Sefine Denizcilik Tersanecilik Turizm, and Cemre Marin Endustri.

It has been confirmed Ferguson Marine embarked in a bid for the contract through the initial Pre-Qualification Questionnaire process but failed to make the shortlist.

It comes a matter of days after Alex Salmond's Alba party called on ministers to directly award all future CalMac ferry orders to nationalised Ferguson Marine.

Ferguson Marine 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.

It came five years after tycoon Jim McColl first rescued the yard when it went bust.

The delivery of new island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, was found to be between four and five years late, with costs doubling to over £200m.

In June it emerged that the completion of the long-overdue ferries had been delayed again, with Ferguson Marine blaming the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of skilled labour.

CMAL said the new vessels will have greater vehicle capacity than the current ferries on the route, and will have "significantly lower energy requirement".

"They will be designed with a clear focus on freight, including the capability to operate a possible overnight freight service," said CMAL.

It comes as services to and from Islay have been hit when 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, one of the oldest in the state-owned fleet was once again taken out of action on Saturday due to a problem with its hull which is being investigated.

The Islay route is already one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network, and CMAL says that the incoming ferries will support the island’s vital economic activity.

HeraldScotland: The Calmac ferry Hebridean Isles berths at Port Askaig on the Isle Of Islay. Picture: Colin Mearns

The procurers of Scotland's ferries said that passenger accommodation will be designed to meet an anticipated increase in passenger demand.

Evaluation of the first stage of the procurement exercise, which included an option for a second vessel, attracted formal responses from 11 organisations.

CMAL said that each submission was "assessed rigorously" against technical and financial criteria.

The four shortlisted shipyards will now submit their technical and commercial proposals for the design and construction of the two vessels.

CMAL said that each submission will be rigorously assessed against "quality, technical and commercial criteria", and the contract will be awarded to the winning shipyard no later than the end of March 2022.

A spokesman for Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) said: “Clearly, this is a disappointing outcome.  We worked hard to put forward a robust case for selection for the first stage of the tender process.  However, we recognise CMAL is running a thorough procurement process and we respect the decision.  We will take relevant learnings on board to inform other bids.

“Scotland’s public sector ferries will, of course, continue to be future business targets for the shipyard, but they are not the sole focus.  We believe there is a significant opportunity for contracts and business growth in the build of complex vessels in the 40 to 100m range, which includes offshore patrol vessels and service operation vessels.  We are actively pursuing opportunities of this nature, which exist in Scotland and around the world, and we remain highly focused on completion of the dual fuel ferry project, which is a top priority.”

Jim Anderson director of vessels at CMAL said: “We received interest from many shipyards across the world, and carried out robust assessment of their technical and financial suitability to take on this project.

“Four shipyards scored the highest across both criteria and have now been issued an ITT for the contract. This stage of the procurement process will take around six months, and we hope to award the contract to the winning shipyard at the end of March 2022.

“The invitation to tender (ITT) stage marks an important step forward in bringing a new vessel to Islay and Jura. It is one of several new vessel and harbour upgrade projects we are currently progressing to improve the resilience of ferry services for island communities.”

Alba raised concerns about the nation's ferry procurement and ownership process at the weekend and called for radical change including the scrapping of CMAL.

The criticism has been over the locking of the management and ownership of ferry services within four levels of Scottish Government-controlled bodies - CMAL, Ferguson Marine as ferry builders, Transport Scotland as funders, and service operators CalMac.

Alba delegates have overwhelmingly passed a move to set out the case to create a new single Ferries Scotland body which would see the amalgamation of CalMac, CMAL, and the shipyard for the procurement, design, construction, and operation of Scotland’s ferry fleet.

It considered that CalMac and CMAL's governance arrangements are "no longer fit for purpose", and that the ongoing interim leadership of the shipyard is a "barrier to protecting and creating jobs at the yard".