ONE of Scotland's wealthiest men has produced evidence he says shows that green vessels at the centre of Scotland's ferry fiasco are already obsolete and would produce dangerous emissions.

Former Ferguson Marine shipyard owner Jim McColl has told MSPs the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 are not as environmentally friendly as presented as they will spew out poisonous gases and the infrastructure is not in place to handle them.

The two new dual-fuel ferries, which were meant to be identical, were once hailed as a step towards a greener future for Scotland's state owned CalMac ferry fleet as they were to be the first UK-built ships capable of running off liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as well as conventional diesel.

Mr McColl spoke out in a public inquiry into the failure to deliver the two island ferries which were due online in the first half of 2018, and are at least five years late, with costs soaring from £97m to £250m.

The collapse of the Mr McColl-led Ferguson Marine, which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde, in August 2019, came amid soaring costs and delays and resulted in a Scottish Government-pursued nationalisation.

Mr McColl said LNG, which is 90% methane, was already "obsolete technology" and claimed there had been analysis that shows that the fumes produced was 80 times more toxic than diesel.


He told the Herald some of the evidence is based on the evidence of Norwegian minister of climate and environment Espen Barth Eide who has warned that the age of LNG-fuelled ships is over.

"I wouldn’t invest in LNG ships today,” said the minister in March.

"When it [LNG] was the only option, I thought: 'Yes – let’s try to invest’ – but now we’re aiming for net zero, not just reducing emissions,” Mr Eide said.

Meanwhile a study commissioned by the European umbrella group for non-governmental organisations working in the field of transport  last year claimed that politicians were playing with fire in support for LNG  with methane up to 80 times more climate warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

The Transport and Environment  study said that use of LNG as a maritime fuel is particularly problematic because slips occur from ship engines.

According to data from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), depending on the engine, it has been estimated that between 0.2% to over 3% of fossil gas slips from the combustion process and is released directly to the atmosphere.

For this reason, the organisation said about 80% of LNG is burned in an engine with worse total greenhouse gas emissions than traditional engines running on "dirty" fuel oil.

The organisation carried out the investigation on a clear November day at the port of Rotterdam – Europe’s largest – using a state of the art infrared camera, with a special filter to detect hydrocarbon gases.

In a seperate study, researchers at the Technical University of Graz, working for Transport and Environment tested for exhaust CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Their analysis from last year found that Iveco’s S-Way LNG truck emits 13.4% more greenhouse gases than its Stralis diesel truck over a 20-year timeframe.

This is largely because of the methane emissions. Methane has a far greater warming impact than CO2 in the 20-years after its release.

The independent tests also revealed that LNG trucks released 37 times more toxic pollutants than the official tests suggested.

The tycoon said: "They shouldn't have LNG vessels there. CalMac didn't want them. They said they didn't want LNG.

HeraldScotland: McColl and Sturgeon at launch of Glen Sannox

"There's no bunkering arrangements in place for LNG, and it's going to cost a lot money to put that in place. They are now obsolete technology."

An April ferry build assessment had shown a new high risk issue involving modifications to the storage of LNG fuel for use on the ships as facilities had not been created and risk assessments had not yet been undertaken. No ground had reportedly been broken on the £5 million contract for the bunkering facilities at Ardrossan and Uig which were due to be ready this year.

"There's a couple of papers recently, one from a Norwegian minister saying that they wouldn't be buying any more LNG fueled vessels, and there's an industry report out saying that the emissions from LNG vessels are 80 [times] more toxic than diesel fumes and they all have to be eliminated.

"So you're now completing two vessels that are obsolete, and you're not going to run them on LNG anyway, because the structure isn't there.

"If you did, you're going to be putting out poisonous gases between Brodick and Ardrossan and the other routes as well. These are not green vessels, but they were wrongly spec'ed."

Serious questions have been previously been raised over the viability of the green vessels at the centre of Scottish ferry fiasco - after it emerged key hull features have been left off seven years after the design was completed.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 will be vital additions to Scotland’s ferry network and the dual fuel technology ensures they will be greener, quieter and more reliable than previous vessels.

“While LNG is not a long-term alternative to MGO for ferries, it is a proven technology that offers around 20% less carbon emissions than MGO [maring gasoil].  It also has significant local air quality benefits, with shore-powering providing for overnight powering of vessels and significant local noise and air quality improvements for residents and crew.

“LNG infrastructure, including appropriate storage facilities and supply connections, are being developed as part of port expansion and improvement works on routes where the new vessels are expected to be deployed.”

CMAL declined to comment.