(3rd May Update below) Western Ferries has announced that it has appointed Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird shipbuilders as preferred bidder for the construction of two new ferries for its Gourock-Dunoon route, with delivery in the summer of 2013.
In evidence of good, ream-based business practice, staff were the first to be told and have known of this since last Friday (27th April).
The boats already have their hull numbers from Cammell Laird – 1387 and 1388, with construction to start in June this year. The intention is that they will be in operation in time for the 2013 Cowal Games, which will add another frisson to this annual cultural celebration of competition.
The new boats will be similar in configuration to the newest ferries currently in the Western fleet – Shuna and Scarba but they will have a further 20% capacity and will be faster, with improved passenger facilities – all designed to meet growing demand on this busy and successful route.
Last year, with around 32,000 sailings – the largest annual number on any route in Scotland – Western carried more than 1.3 million passengers and over 600,000 cars.
This investment in the route by Western Ferries comes after a recently completed £4 million investment in its terminals at the two destinations.
The ambition for the service is matched by a care for commercial sustainability with the new boats to be more environmentally responsible in their greater fuel efficiency – which will, of course, reduce running costs. This also benefits customers in helping to keep fares down.
Western’s Managing Director, Gordon Ross has talked of the strengths in the relationship with Cammell Laird on this order, saying: ‘Western Ferries is delighted to appoint Cammell Laird as the preferred bidder to build two new ferries for its Gourock to Dunoon service.
‘Not only was Cammell Laird’s bid the most commercially competitive, it also provided for the earliest delivery of the vessels which was a crucial factor for the Company and the local community.
‘Despite strong international interest, Western Ferries is also very pleased that these new vessels, along with the new vessels introduced in 2001 and 2003, will be fully built in the UK.’
Western is a major employer in Dunoon and Cowal, with 55 employees from the area, so this expanded reach into the Central Belt and a more muscular link between that powerhouse and Dunoon and Cowal, will be welcome reassurance of forthcoming economic activity to the company’s workforce and the residents of the area.
Cammell Laird employs over 750 people at Birkenhead, and a similar number of subcontractors from the
local supply chain. It’s expansive base there on the Mersey includes significant ship-building, ship-repair, heavy fabrication and an engineering facility.
Their CEO, John Syvret, outlining the portfolio of builds the yard embraces and enjoying the prospect of working with the Western Ferries team, says: ‘This project is a welcome addition to the already diverse range of offshore, commercial and military projects underway within the yard, and will compliment the successful module construction work we have been undertaking in support of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.’
Given that the UK economy is now on a double dip recession, the commitment to growth in this Western Ferries investment lifts morale well beyond Dunoon and Cowal.
Jamie McGrigor, Highlands and Islands MSP
Speaking at Holyrood today Jamie McGrigor said:
‘This is a very significant and positive announcement from Western Ferries which will be welcomed by local residents of Dunoon and Cowal and visitors to the area alike.
‘I look forward to these vessels being delivered on the route, hopefully in 2013, and offering passengers improved facilities. It is also a real boost to the UK economy that these new vessels will be built here.
‘Western Ferries offers a fast, efficient and reliable passenger and vehicle service on the Gourock-Dunoon route and the company’s investment in new vessels reminds us of the contrast between that company’s very good record on this route and the record of successive Lib-Lab and SNP Scottish Governments who repeatedly mishandled matters and left the town centre to town centre service being run by Argyll Ferries as a passenger only one.’
3rd May update: Statement from Fergusons
For Argyll asked Fergusons about the issue of delivery dates on the western ships. Managing Director, Richard Deane, points out the straightforward realities:
‘Of course, everyone at Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited was disappointed to miss out on the contract to build two new vessels for Western Ferries.
‘To answer your specific question, as Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited employs 120 people approximately and Cammell Laird employs 750, their facilities clearly are much bigger therefore they are saying that they can deliver the vessels earlier than Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited could. However I think the real issue with regard to the contract award is that Cammell Laird has priced the vessels less than Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited and Western Ferries, being a small commercial organisation, has decided this is the best option for them. Therefore the delivery of the vessels in time for the Cowal Games is not the main reason for the contract going to Cammell Laird.
‘Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited, who built the first new vessel for Western Ferries many years ago, is disappointed to lose out on the tender. However we wish Western Ferries and Cammell Laird every success in the project.’