FURY has erupted after Gourock-based ferry firm Caledonian MacBrayne awarded a £25m vessels maintenance contract to an English firm over a Greenock shipyard.

Cammell Laird on Merseyside was given the lucrative commission to refit six CalMac ships over the next four years at the expense of Dales Marine Services Ltd, which operates at Garvel dry dock.

Now Inverclyde's elected representatives are calling for a further two lots of work currently up for grabs — with a combined value of an additional £29m — to be given to the local workforce.

Concerns are also being expressed over how the deal to service the Scottish Government-owned ferries was given to Cammell Laird.

The Telegraph understands that MP Ronnie Cowan and MSP Stuart McMillan have both written separately to CalMac on the issue.

Mr Cowan said it was 'clearly frustrating' that Dales Marine - who recently carried out crucial remedial work on the unfinished CalMac ferry MV Glen Sannox - had not been awarded the new contract.

The MP told the Telegraph: "It is rightly a competitive process and CalMac must ensure that they receive value for money but it is imperative that CalMac provide feedback to Dales Marine to give them every opportunity to improve future bids and enhance their opportunities of winning the next tranche of work.

"Keeping skilled jobs in Inverclyde is vital and losing any bid is an unsettling process.

"But this is only the first round of procurement, there are more to come."

Cammell Laird is half-owned by Peel Ports, who are coming under increasing pressure to create more skilled jobs in Greenock by bringing their Inchgreen dry dock back into industrial use.

The decision by CalMac to award work to an English yard in which Peel has a major interest has been described as 'deeply disappointing' by Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe.

Mr McCabe said: "Dales are an important local employer and the maintenance work for CalMac is crucial to their sustainability as a company.

"I have asked our officers to engage with Dales to better understand the challenges they face and why they lost this particular tender.

"It does seem strange that it is more cost effective for publicly-owned CalMac vessels to bypass a yard on the Clyde to travel to Merseyside to be repaired.

"It would be more understandable if Cammell Laird were planning to use their dock at Inchgreen to carry out the work but that does not appear to be the case."

Alasdair Higgins, of the Campaign to Save Inchgreen Dry Dock, said: "We are asking if CalMac took into consideration the accumulated additional costs - which run into thousands of pounds - for an additional two days sailing and the cost of fuel to bypass the Clyde in favour of Merseyside.

"This is a major blow to Dales and we ask all our local politicians to investigate this award."

Councillor Chris McEleny has also written to CalMac bosses over the situation.

He said: “Millions of pounds to maintain Scottish Government owned-CalMac ferries could be getting spent in Inverclyde supporting jobs here, but instead the contracts are going to Merseyside.

"This is bad for jobs on the Clyde and dreadful for the environment.

"Inverclyde is the most deprived community in Scotland.

"We have the capacity and the ability to have all of this work carried out here on the Clyde.

"This would support jobs, help create apprenticeships and be a much needed multi million pound boost to our area.

"Surely no rational person can support Clyde and Hebrides ferries sailing south to be worked upon when that work, and all the economic benefit that comes with it, can be carried out here in Scotland.

“This work must be carried out on the Clyde."

The CalMac vessels to be worked on at Cammell Laird are MV Clansman, MV Loch Seaforth, MV Lord of The Isles, MV Finlaggan and MV Hebrides.

Dales Marine today declined to comment on the matter.

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: "CalMac has an obligation to put contracts out to tender so that the process is as fair and transparent as possible.

"A range of factors, including value for money and efficiency, are always taken into account before bids are awarded.

"We operate a lifeline service across the western isles and it is vital that passengers receive the highest standard of service possible.

"This includes making sure that vessels are maintained to a high standard and that the likelihood of breakdowns are reduced."