Further Ferry Fiasco – Scotsman Article – 11 November 2021


There’s many questions arising from Scotland’s Ferry Fiasco, central to them though is why and who specified that the two vessels making slow headway in the Ferguson Yard had to be dual fuel marine diesel/ LNG. That’s at the heart of difficulties that have arisen and resulting delays.  

It’s not just why when you’re hosting COP26 and trying to push towards Net Zero you’d use such an environmentally damaging system. More critical is that the system’s not really used on ships the size of these two vessels. Instead, it’s usually applied to larger ones, with ones this size, other fuels such as either hydrogen or battery are more often combined with marine diesel.  

Compounding the design complexity there’s the lack of infrastructure to provide for LNG. I asked CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) who procure the vessels “what consideration was given to onshore supply systems, what was in situ at the time of requisition and what the situation is now for LNG?” 

Pretty basic stuff you’d think. If you’re putting in an unusual fuel system you’d better ensure there’s easy access to it, especially when you’re sailing to remote communities in the Clyde and Hebrides.      

But the answer was: 

“At the time the only load out facility in the UK for trucks was in the Isle of Grain. There were 3 projects looking at the bulk storage in Scotland 2 on the East Coast and one on the West Coast – so far none of these have been built out.”  

So, the only site for supplying LNG isn’t even in Scotland, let alone the Hebrides or the Clyde, but at the mouth of the River Thames and it remains that way. What an absurdity? Who thought up that?  

When I asked Cal Mac, who operate the ships, they directed me to CMAL who in turn responded that it was Cal Mac, a claim echoed by the Scottish Government. But when the Scottish Parliament were carrying out an Inquiry, Jim McColl the entrepreneur, in charge of Fergusons at the time, made it clear that CMAl called the shots stating: 

“We too have heard from CAL Mac that it does not get what it wants from CMAL but gets told what it is going to get.” 

More damningly Commodore Luke Van Beek, a Dutch maritime expert appointed by the Scottish Government said: 

“I had a meeting with the previous Chief Executive of Cal Mac, during which he told me that the two ships 801 and 802 were not the ships that Cal Mac wanted. In particular Cal Mac did not want LNG fuel.”   

The absurdity of ships fuelled in a manner that the operators didn’t want and where there’s neither then nor now a supply system’s the crux of the issue. The contract was tendered too early and whilst lacking in specification. Blame for that rests with CMAL and the Scottish Government for not intervening. It’s suggested CMAl were driven by Government pressure. Both have some explaining to do which is why an Inquiry’s needed.