finance

Ferguson Marine recruitment problems delay ferries again



A nationalised shipyard responsible for the delivery of two over-budget and overdue CalMac ferries has delayed them again amid problems recruiting extra staff.

A letter to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee revealed that the difficulties in recruiting skilled workers could lead to a further delay on the delivery of the two ferries.

Tim Hair, the turnaround director appointed by Scottish Government ministers, said at the current time it was not possible to say if the ferries would be delivered with certainty.

He confirmed the shipyard fell behind seven weeks on the delivery timetable due to Covid-19 procedures and the government allowing the company to continue accruing holidays until 21 April.

As a result, “very little” of the current year’s holiday entitlement has been used, leaving an “an exceptional number of holidays still to be taken which will adversely affect the resourcing of the project”.

The shipyard was hoping to recruit an additional 120 extra workers to enable the shipyard to start a seven-day working week to make up the lost time.

However, last weekend the new shift had only 29 workers in place, so is now looking at sub-contracting and hiring a non-UK labour force to help complete the delivery.

The two ferries were expected to enter service in 2018/19, destined for CalMac’s Arran and Skye and Outer Hebrides routes, but have been subject to repeated delays.

The delays will cost the public purse more than twice the original £97m fixed price contract. The business was taken over by the Scottish Government in 2019 after it went into administration.

The shipyard’s new management drew up a programme of “remedial work” budget, which will cost between £110m to £114m, and is still on target to deliver the ferries within this.

Under the revised schedule given in August, the first ferry was expected to be completed by June next year, with the second ship expected to be delivered by February 2023 at the latest.

It is now uncertain whether the yard will hit these targets.

Hair wrote: “The Covid-related elements of production suspension and accrued holidays will delay the schedule by seven weeks and the recovery plan to increase by working weekends appears unlikely to attract enough skilled workers.

“It is not therefore possible to provide a definitive schedule for the completion of the vessels at this time – work on recruitment and subcontracting will continue.”

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