FERGUSON'S bosses have welcomed an investigation into a delayed £97m ferry contract and the future of yard - and insist that business is booming.

Company chief executive Gerry Marshall has broken his silence after a senior Scottish Government minister confirmed a further setback in the delivery of the two new CalMac vessels which are under construction at the Newark site.

The first, MV Glen Sannox, is now 14 months late.

The second ship, currently known as Hull 802, is around 20 months behind schedule.

Ferguson's wants more cash to finish the work but their customers, Scottish Government offshoot Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) have refused to hand over any more money, insisting they have already shelled out £1.5m from a £3m contingency fund - on top of the original £97m cost of the contract.

The government has also provided the Port Glasgow firm with £45m worth of loans to diversify the business.

Mr Marshall did not provide an updated timeline for completion of the ferries and blamed CMAL for the latest delay.

He said: "We are currently in the process of updating the Scottish Government on the expected delivery dates for delivery of the two dual fuel vessels to CMAL. "Our attempts to resolve our claim for additional costs with CMAL amicably and expeditiously have not proved possible and unfortunately this has had a knock-on impact on delivery. "The Scottish Government has informed us that it will now seek an independent view on this matter, a move which is very much welcomed by us.

"Aside from the build of the two vessels for the Scottish ferry fleet, the business is continuing to win new work and diversify into new markets to ensure the long-term viability of the yard under its present owners."

According to the company's latest set of annual accounts, Ferguson's stands to lose £40m on the contract.

Yard owner Jim McColl described the ferries as an 'albatross' around the neck of the business and that it would be a 'godsend' to 'get rid' of the vessels.

He has invested around £26m in transforming the site since rescuing the firm from administration in 2014.

Ferguson's and CMAL are in dispute over the extent of changes made to the design of the ships.

The shipbuilder claims significant alterations have had to be made but the client insists only minor modifications were necessary.