Scandal-Ridden Scottish Ferry Sets Sail at Last

Glen Sannox, 2023 (file image courtesy Ferguson Marine)
Glen Sannox, 2023 (file image courtesy Ferguson Marine)

Published Feb 13, 2024 8:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

The long-delayed ferry Glen Sannox has gotten under way for the first time. It has been eight long years and many hours of rework since her construction began, but her entry into service is finally in sight. 

Glen Sannox departed under her own power Tuesday for the first in a series of day trips down the Clyde, which will continue through Friday. All going well, the vessel will finally be delivered to operator CalMac, and will be put into service on the run to the isle of Arran. First, however, the yard will have to complete the pipework for the LNG portion of the ferry's dual-fuel propulsion system. Key piping components are still missing, and this will likely push back the delivery date, according to the BBC.

The program is an example of the steep learning curve that faces national shipbuilding programs, and the resultant cost. Shipbuilder Ferguson Marine started work on the CalMac ferry program in 2015, went bankrupt after serious design flaws emerged, and was nationalized in 2019. The program is $440 million over budget and has spawned multiple calls for an investigation of the procurement process.

Despite its past challenges, Ferguson may be building ferries for CalMac for some time to come. The Scottish government is reportedly considering a plan to place an order for another seven smaller vessels with the yard. Ferguson also plans to build bow sections for the Type 26 frigate program under subcontract to BAE. 

CalMac's holding company - publicly-owned Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) - has also ordered four conventional diesel-powered ferries from an established yard in Turkey. Work began in October 2022 and the first is expected to deliver in the fall, on time and on budget. Each Turkish-built vessel will cost about $65 million.