THE COST of repairs to ferries run by state-controlled ferry operator CalMac has more than tripled in a decade as age takes its toll on Scotland’s ferry fleet.

Scottish Government-owned ferry operator CalMac spent more than £28.5m on repairs to their vessels last year, compared with just £9.5m in 2011.

The official figures show that repair costs have soared since the SNP came to power, with total spending running to nearly £220m since 2007.

In 2022, some 17 of state-owned ferry operator CalMac's 31 working ferries deployed across Scotland was over its 25-year-old life expectancy. The oldest in the CalMac fleet is is the Isle of Cumbrae which 46 years old.

And since the SNP came to power in 2007, the average of Scotland's lifeline vessels has soared from 17 years to 24 years. Back in 1974 the typical ferry was just 13 years old.

The Scottish Conservatives, that procured the figures said the new ferries to support lifeline services were needed urgently.

It comes as the delivery of two new vessels for state-controlled ferry operator CalMac is running over five years late with the price soaring from £97m to at least £240m. One expert has tipped it to top £400m.

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: “The age and decline of Scotland’s ferry fleet is taking an ever heavier toll on island communities and the public purse.

“More than a third of CalMac’s ships are working beyond their design life, and the operator’s head engineer has admitted that breakdowns will become more frequent as time goes on.

“It is no wonder that the cost of repairs has soared."

Scotland's ferry fiasco ie expected to cost £1.5bn to attempt to fix over ten years as state-controlled ferry owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) admit the lifeline network has suffered from "many years" of under-investment.

A £1.3bn investment cost over ten years does not include the final price over the delivery of the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 which remain languishing in the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

CMAL chief executive Kevin Hobbs has "stressed the need" for a "full" £580m investment committed in an infrastructure investment plan running from 2021/22 to 2025/26. But he has said around £720m further was needed in the following five years to deliver 21 new ferries and the port infrastructure required over the ten year period.

CMAL has stated that there has been issues in finding ferries for use in Scotland through the second hand market.

The publicly owned company has said it had looked at 600 vessels and managed to procure just one.


Mr Simpson added: “The SNP have utterly failed to deliver their promised ferry replacement programme, which has forced them to fork out a fortune of public money on ships which should rightly have been retired years ago.

“Meanwhile, two unfinished vessels in nationalised Ferguson shipyard are several years late and still months away from completion, having racked up costs of more than £250million so far.

“The SNP is letting down Scottish taxpayers and abandoning island residents who rely on these lifeline routes. They must urgently deliver the new ferries we desperately need or the breakdowns and delays will only get worse.”

In a November financial document Mr Hobbs registered concerns about ferry network investment while saying that the Ferguson Marine debacle was an "outlier" in 15 years of history.

"It has been our professional opinion that investment in ferries and harbour infrastructure in Scotland has not met the levels needed for many years. It remains a desire of all stakeholders to increase investment that will lead to greater resilience, reliability and sustainability," he said.

CMAL buys the ferries and then leases them to state-owned CalMac, the operators who for 170 years have provided islanders' key link to the mainland, with in many cases the only one.

The costs suggested by CMAL will help to deliver the building of 21 new vessels for the fleet as concerns continue to emerge about the ageing ferry fleet in the wake of a series of breakdowns.


Seven of these will be loch-class vessels, built through the Small Vessel Replacement Programme (SVRP) which is already underway.

They are also planning to replace six major vessels in the fleet, the the first of those is being built to serve Islay and Jura.

A £105m deal for two lifeline vessels to serve the Kintyre to Islay route went to Turkey.

The deal to give Cemre Marin Endustri the ferries deal is expected to increase vehicle and freight capacity on the Islay routes by 40% with each vessel able to carry 100 cars and 450 passengers.

But CMAL has been accused of a "scandalous" waste of money for failing to use catamarans instead of the current vessels being built in Turkey.

An analysis, produced with the help of ferry experts, ship brokers and marine economists, reveals that they could have got three catamarans which would could carry 1161 passengers instead of 700 with the preferred ships and 294 cars instead of 214, for just £60m and would not need the £17m pier upgrade.

It says that the 25-year-cost, including the build and the running costs of the catamarans would be £274m - against £387m for the conventional monohull options being preferred - a saving of £113m.

It argues that catamarans are cheaper, more reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly than the conventional monohull vessels that are at the centre of Scotland's ferry fiasco.

CMAL has debunked the study, denied it is anti-catamaran and said the analysis did not have the information necessary to make robust assessments.

Ministers were warned 11 years ago by the then head of CalMac about the need for urgent investment to arrest the decline of the nation's lifeline island fleet.

Peter Timms, chairman of ferry operator CalMac warned the government in 2010 that ferry investment had been "slipping behind for decades" and produced an analysis which found that finance was urgently required on a longer term, regular basis "to just stand still".

Since his warning only five vessels have been launched to support the network, and only two are considered as major ferries. They are the 5626 tonne MV Finlaggan, built in Poland in 2011 and the 9058 tonne MV Loch Seaforth built in Germany and launched in 2014.


Earlier this week shipyard bosses carrying out work on the two delayed and over-budget ferries said a "reassuring milestone" has now been passed.

The Ferguson Marine yard confirmed that the first emergency diesel generator has been run successfully on MV Glen Sannox.

The generator is the first piece of major equipment to be run on the vessel, and all tests and systems “performed as expected the nationalised shipyard said.

It is understood that the engine will be run periodically to ensure no changes in condition, while further commissioning work continues.

David Tydeman, chief executive at Ferguson Marine the successful starting of the the first bit of rotating machinery on Glen Sannox was a “very reassuring milestone”.

The Glen Sannox is currently scheduled to be delivered between March and May 2023, with the other vessel to be delivered between October and December 2023.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has invested around £2bn in our ferry services since 2007. It has also established a Resilience Fund to ensure future reliability and availability of vessels, which is over and above the annual expenditure for maintenance and repairs. The allocation for 2021/2022 is £4 million for each of the lifeline fleets. Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd are responsible for governance of this funding with CalMac Ferries Ltd leading on implementation. Since 2007 we have also increased frequency significantly on a number of services as well as bringing in new routes.

“We have long acknowledged the need to address delays in ferry infrastructure, which is why we have committed to investing a further £580 million in the Infrastructure Investment Plan. We have recently issued the contract to build two new ferries for the Islay routes and we look forward to the recently acquired MV Loch Frisa entering service.

“We continue to charge CalMac and CMAL with seeking potential second hand tonnage to improve operational resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes. The previous charters of MV Arrow are further evidence of this ongoing commitment to improve and support the existing fleet in this way.”

The Scottish Government and CalMac have been approached for comment.