A UK Government shipbuilding strategy has cited ferries set to be built in Turkey within a ‘pipeline of 'opportunity' for domestic shipbuilders, it has emerged.

It comes as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has told ministers they must show greater commitment to building ferries in Scotland.

Alba Party general secretary Chris McEleny has also called on the SNP's MP and MSP for Inverclyde, Ronnie Cowan and Stuart McMillan to back his campaign to have Scottish Government ferry orders awarded directly to Scottish yards.

Included within a 30-year shipbuilding pipeline are ferries due to be added to Scotland's lifeline services over the next ten years.

The RMT has said it has "questioned the motives" of citing the domestic ferry industry in Scotland within the UK government pipeline plan aimed at helping to insulate domestic yards against the volatility of a challenging global market.

The strategy has been driven by the National Shipbuilding Office (NSO) which oversees all of the Government's interests in UK shipbuilding.

It said the strategy will give firms a "thorough understanding of our policy and technology priorities" and allow the maritime sector to know "the value we place on regional growth, skilled jobs and thriving supply chains, and how they can help us to level up across the UK".

Scottish Government’s Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) which buys the ferries and then leases them to state-owned CalMac, are looking to deliver the building of 21 new vessels for the fleet over the next decade 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.

Work has already started on a lifeline vessels to serve the Kintyre to Islay route which went to Turkey in 1 £105m deal.

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.


CMAL 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.

It was confirmed that Ferguson Marine embarked in a bid for the contract through the initial Pre-Qualification Questionnaire vetting process but failed to get to the tender stage.

The same shipyard has emerged as a favourite to win a £115m contract to build two ferries for longsuffering islanders as attempts are made to shore up the nation’s ageing ferry fleet.

Transport Scotland 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 has confirmed that the new ferries will be built to the same specification as new ferries which are being designed and built in Turkey for Islay.

They say it will “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”.

But industry insiders say this will give the Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard in Turkey, which won the Islay ferries contract a "strong competitive advantage" having produced the blueprint through the Islay tender process.

The RMT has given evidence to the Scottish Parliament net zero, energy and transport committee, which is looking into the provision of a modern and sustainable ferry service, Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, says that more has to be done to promote domestic shipbuilding jobs.

"In keeping with the £2bn public investment in the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service network over the last 15 years, the £580m Infrastructure Investment Plan to deliver new vessels and infrastructure, mainly on the CHFS network by 2026 must also benefit domestic shipbuilding, including Ferguson Marine in the public sector," the union said.


"The progress in tendering the contracts for two vessels for Islay and Jura is welcome but it is disappointing that the contract has gone to a shipyard in Turkey.

"Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government need to demonstrate stronger commitment to shipbuilding in the nationalised facility on the Lower Clyde."

The RMT said that any Scottish Government commitment to a public sector shipbuilder "should be permanent". "This would not only support skilled jobs but support domestic employment on low carbon ferries in Scotland.

"That is a sustainable model for procuring the next generation of CalMac and other publicly owned, operated and subsidised ferry services. It would also support CalMac’s industry leading seafarer training programme."

It said that procurement is "desperately needed" and welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment in the Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) to £580m investment in the ferry network over the next five years.

But it remained "concerned that the £281m budget for new vessels will not be sufficient to meet the schedule for replacing up to seven small ferries and the Hebridean Isles by 2025-26".

The shipbuilding strategy has already championed the opportunities that the Ministry of Defence would bring to the UK market which it said "would have the potential to be genuinely transformative for UK shipyards and the wider enterprise".

It said: "With build having begun on the Type 31 frigates in Rosyth, alongside build on the Type 26 on the Clyde, there are now two classes of frigate simultaneously under construction in UK shipyards for the first time in 30 years."