There’s a welcome ‘on time, on budget’ announcement today (Thursday 25 May) from Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), as they keep track of progress on four new ferries being constructed in Turkey.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s chair of transportation and infrastructure, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, was among a delegation visiting the Cemre shipyard in Turkey yesterday, with the honour of pressing the button for steel-cutting on two new vessels for the Little Minch.
That means work is well underway for the pair of ships which are set to join CalMac’s fleet in 2025, serving Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig.
And it came on the day that another key milestone was met, with the keel-laying for the newly named MV Loch Indaal, to serve Islay and Jura alongside MV Isle of Islay.
The two new 94.8-metre ferries for the Uig triangle route will be designed and built to the same specification as the two new vessels for Islay, but with raised aft mooring decks to accommodate the higher pier heights at Lochmaddy, Uig and Tarbert.
The vessels will each have capacity for up to 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles, increasing capacity on the Little Minch routes and improving the overall resilience of the wider fleet.
The public will be asked to vote on the names for these two vessels next year and the ferries are expected to be delivered in June and October 2025.
Meanwhile the names of the two Islay vessels were officially chosen last week through a public vote. They are now known as MV Isle of Islay and MV Loch Indaal.
Construction is progressing well at the yard, with delivery of MV Isle of Islay expected in October 2024 and MV Loch Indaal expected in February 2025.
The new vessels will bring an almost 40% increase vehicle and freight capacity on the Islay routes, a reduction in emissions and improve the resilience of the wider fleet.
This, paired with the delivery of the dual fuel vessels currently being constructed at Ferguson Marine shipyard on the Clyde will see six new vessels joining the Scottish ferry network by the end of 2025.
Minister for Transport Kevin Stewart said: “I welcome these important milestones, as they move us closer to having these new vessels join the fleet to bring welcome additional capacity, reliability and resilience for our island communities.
“We have committed to adding six new major vessels to the fleet by 2026, and I want to continue to see good progress on bringing them into service.
“The Scottish Government shares the desires of island communities for sustainable and effective ferry services and look forward to continuing our constructive engagement with them on future services and vessel replacements.”
Jim Anderson, Director of Vessels at CMAL, said: “Work at Cemre shipyard is progressing well, with the ferries being constructed on time and on budget.
“These key milestones fill us with confidence that we will see all four vessels out on the network by the end of 2025.
“The steel cutting for the first of the Little Minch vessels marks another milestone with the start of the construction of the vessel.
“The new ferries have been designed with carbon reduction in mind and are expected to deliver significant reductions in emissions.”
The £91 million contract to build the two Islay ferries was awarded to Cemre Marin Endustri in Turkey in March 2022 following a competitive tender.
In October 2022, The Scottish Government prioritised an additional £115m in funding to enable CMAL to accelerate the replacement of the major vessel fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes.
The four vessels form part of a programme of investment by CMAL, funded through Scottish Government commitments to capital investment of around £700 million in ferry infrastructure and related services over the five years from 2021 to 2026.
Wider plans will deliver other new small and major vessels for the fleet and upgrades of harbour infrastructure with future options and being considered through the emerging Islands Connectivity Plan.
The pictures show Cllr Uisdean Robertson as the steel-cutting for the Little Minch ferries begins, and the timeline for delivery of the two new vessels (CMAL).