An alarming picture has been painted by the official report into the project to build two new ferries for CalMac, including the one for the Tarbert-Uig-Lochmaddy services.

The report to the Scottish Government says there have been a number of issues that have been the root cause of the long delays to the project. These include:

  • lack of project management, particularly critical on 801/02 which are complex ships where no one person has understood and controlled the overall programme
  • an absence of project planning and control systems has resulted in a lack of integrated working, out-of-sequence activities and no useful management information
  • Engineering processes and controls are weak. Specifications from the customer were not fully understood before design work was carried out resulting in an incomplete design and causing significant rework.

As a result of the long delays, the vessels have suffered damage. 

“Vessel 801 has been in the water for two years and the underwater condition has not been established. However, a drydocking has been planned early in the programme. Internally, the care and protection has been poor resulting in equipment damage.

“Vessel 802 has been on the berth for over two years and the paint protection has degraded in this time both on external surfaces and internally due to rainwater ingress into areas of the ship.

“As a result of the immature design and out of sequence working there has been a significant number of defects raised by the customer which have all been reviewed and where required included in the cost and programme. These include a major departure from the specification, the widespread use of axilock couplings, which together with other work, has driven the decision to remove most of the pipework within the engine room.”

The costs for delivery of the vessels are likely to total £110m and they won’t be available until late 2021 and mid-to-late 2022 at the earliest.

“As part of the programme, a remediation package of work has been identified which includes not only the clean-up and defect clearance on the vessels but also plans to improve key areas of the organisation in engineering, project management and planning and controls. Also, improvement of processes in a number of areas is planned, particularly around planning and project controls.

“On completion of the remediation phase, circa seven months, a review of the programme, costs and risks will be undertaken to better refine cost and delivery forecasts.

"In summary, the work has shown that the vessels can be delivered within the time and cost shown above but is not without significant challenges to improve the organisation and its processes in order to ensure the issues around rework and control do not occur. In particular the challenges are:

  •  The re-energising of a demoralised workforce and the improvement of productivity.
  •  The ability to attract the right talent to achieve the resource profiles with sufficiently competent people.
  •  The ability to put in place and operate the new processes required
  •  The impact of future as yet unidentified rework to the project
  •  The control and management of the design subcontractor

During this review phase it has been very difficult to identify management information to use as a baseline for determining the project status. The business does not operate an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or a document management system and therefore what information exists is fragmented and sits in isolation, the report says.

The basic design, i.e. the development of the vessels structural drawings and system design has still not achieved completion and approval by Customer, Lloyds and/or MCA except in a small number of areas. This is several years behind schedule and has been a key cause of rework on the vessels.

The status of the detailed design, i.e. the spacial layout of systems and equipment in the 3D model and issuing of information to production, has been difficult to establish. This is because the detailed design has been subcontracted to Vera Navis based in Portugal and there was limited management control established to manage this key contractor. Quantifying the work left to complete has been difficult.

There is no single source of information to define the status of the bill of material. It remains uncertain as to whether all equipment has been purchased, particularly where change has occurred. In particular, the estimate of total pipe quantities is uncertain and this is a key component for determining the programme timescales.

As a consequence of inadequate planning and a lack of production information work has been undertaken out of sequence in a number of areas particularly where insulation, ceilings and cladding have been installed. This gives the appearance of good progress but in reality this will be substantially deconstructed in order for other work to progress, particularly where hotwork is required.

There has been inadequate control of onsite subcontractors who are performing the design and installation of electrical, HVAC and accommodation outfit. This has resulted in limited design oversight and limited integration of the work at the vessel with the overall workscope. The subcontractors have therefore been frustrated in their ability to perform the work and in a number of instances this has resulted in claims, the report says. 

Reacting, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “The SNP Government seems to possess no understanding of how critically important the ferry service is to island communities like those I represent in Argyll and Bute, Skye and the Western Isles.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the vessel destined for the Skye, Harris and North Uist route will not be ready until the summer of 2022.

“This saga is entirely the fault of the SNP government. Confidence is steadily draining away as the service deteriorates and costs escalate.

“No wonder hard-pressed businesses based on the islands take such a dim view of the SNP’s twelve-year record as custodians of our vital transport infrastructure.

“Nicola Sturgeon's government needs to stop obsessing about another independence referendum and instead do the job they are paid to do, which includes keeping our lifeline ferry services fit for purpose.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan questioned Economy Secretary Derek Mackay on Wednesday about the project at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. 

The Cabinet Secretary gave an update to Parliament about progress on the two new dual-fuel ferries are under construction for CalMac. The yard was officially taken into public ownership earlier this month after t Ferguson Marine Engineering went into administration.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The delays to the delivery of these vessels have been unacceptable. As I said in Parliament earlier today, it is vitally important to my constituents in Harris and Uist that vessel 802 in particular enters into service as soon as possible and relieves pressure on an ageing fleet.

“Without the Scottish Government stepping in to purchase Ferguson Marine, and bring it under public ownership, there would be no obvious means of ensuring completion of the new ferries. The Tories have let their ideology trump the needs of our island communities by continuing their opposition to this move.

“The recently-published report on the costs and proposals around these vessels lays out in some detail the how the previous failings in management have caused such significant delays. I hope vital lessons will be learned from this and that we get the building of these vessels back on track and delivered as soon as possible.”

The Programme Review Board report is available on the Scottish Government website