Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has awarded a £10.1m contract to marine, civil engineering and building contractor, L&M Keating Ltd to carry out upgrade works at Lochmaddy Pier.

Keating will be responsible for completing all civil engineering works for the harbour upgrade project, including pier strengthening and extension, upgraded fendering, land reclamation and seabed dredging.

The work starts this month and is expected to be completed in spring 2021.  CalMac will continue to operate ferry services during the works.

The infrastructure upgrade work at Lochmaddy is part of the Skye Triangle Infrastructure Project, which involves significant harbour upgrades at the three ports at Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig.  The work is designed to improve and modernise harbour facilities and prepare the way for new vessels.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am very pleased to see the planned upgrade of Lochmaddy Pier moving forward with the award of this contract, following the recent award of the contract for construction works at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

“Work can now begin on the construction phase of the project, which will deliver an improved experience for the passengers who use these important services.

“Transport Scotland continues to work with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Highland Council and CMAL in the delivery of our ambitious plans for the facilities at the three ports of Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig through the Skye Triangle Infrastructure Project. 

"I look forward to seeing this project help to further improve connectivity from and to the Western Isles, with subsequent benefits for the local economy.”

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “We are very pleased to have reached this very important milestone in the delivery of infrastructure improvements for the wider Skye Triangle route.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Transport Scotland, with CMAL and now with Keating in making significant improvements to the pier and marshalling areas at Lochmaddy.

"We are confident that the investment in port infrastructure across the Skye Triangle route will make a significant contribution to growing and sustaining efficient and effective transport links for the islands.”

The new ferry for this route is being built at the Ferguson's shipyard in Glasgow, now owned by the Scottish Government.

Looking back, CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) placed orders for two new ferries with Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) in October 2015. The ferries were to be delivered on a fixed-price basis under a design and build contract, with a combined fixed-price of £97m.

The first ferry, MV Glen Sannox (vessel 801) was due to be delivered in summer 2018, with the second ferry (vessel 802) slightly later.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands wrote to the Committee on 9 November 2017, highlighting a delay in the delivery of the ferries with vessel 801 delayed until Winter 2018/19 and vessel 802 some time later. 

The Cabinet Secretary wrote again to the Committee on 16 August 2018 to advise that “…the first vessel, the MV Glen Sannox, will be delivered during Summer 2019 and the second vessel in Spring 2020”.

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, wrote to the Committee on 25 April 2019 advising that he anticipated a further delay to the delivery of both vessels.

The directors of FMEL filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators on 8 August 2019, effectively starting the process which would place the business in administration.

On 2 December 2019, the Scottish Government confirmed that it had taken the Ferguson Marine shipyard into public ownership following the rejection by administrators of three commercial bids for the company.

On 18 December 2019, the Scottish Government published the Ferguson Marine Programme Review Board report, which indicated a delivery range for vessel 801 of October to December 2021 and a delivery range of July to October 2022 for vessel 802, with an estimated outstanding additional cost for delivery of the two ferries of £110.3m, more than double the contracted price.