A TOTAL of 120 new jobs are being created at Ferguson's shipyard as a major push is launched to complete two heavily delayed ferries.

The man tasked with saving the yard, Tim Hair, today hailed the workforce boost as a 'milestone' for the yard as he seeks to put past failures behind it and secure its long-term competitive future.

MV Glen Sannox and the unnamed 'Hull 802', both intended for the Caledonian MacBrayne fleet, are now nearly five years behind schedule in the wake of a procurement debacle.

But Mr Hair — in an exclusive interview with the Telegraph — has declared that what happened before is for others to deal with as he strives to ensure the continuation of shipbuilding in our district.

He said: "To have the opportunity today to announce 120 jobs is a really nice place to be.

"The yard could have closed and be lying derelict by now, but instead we are announcing jobs."

Mr Hair — who has 26 years of experience turning ailing businesses around — was appointed by the Scottish Government 18 months ago after ministers stepped in to nationalise Ferguson's.

The move came after a £97m contract to build the two dual-fuel ferries, awarded to the yard under the ownership of billionaire businessman Jim McColl, turned sour.

Now the 120 additional workers will transform Ferguson Marine into a seven-day-a-week operation to complete the ships in the quickest possible timescale following disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Hair said: "Since August 2019 my focus has been on what is necessary to sort out the shipyard, deliver the vessels and develop a sustainable business for the future.

"I understand that others need to examine that happened before then, but my focus is, and always has been, on the future.

"There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to sort out underlying problems.

"This jobs announcement is a milestone in the development of the yard."

Mr Hair said that the cost of the additional skilled staff — which will swell the yard's workforce to more than 500 — will be met from a budget of £110m he asked the government for in 2019.

Weekend production, covering shifts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, is scheduled to begin on March 19 and last for at least six months.

Mr Hair said: "We are taking serious action in an effort to expedite the delivery schedule for the dual fuel ferries project.

"I want to take advantage of better weather and extended daylight hours over the next six months to drive the project hard.

"It's a great opportunity for skilled workers in the local community and surrounding areas to join us in a pivotal year and contribute to an important vessel project."

Revised delivery dates given last year for Glen Sannox and Hull 802 were April-June 2022 and December 2022 to February 2023 respectively.

But these may be pushed back further as a result of the pandemic.

Mr Hair said: "The disruption cause by the recent lockdowns will have had an impact and we are currently working through what that impact will be."

He added: "I am confident that we will deliver a sustainable Ferguson Marine.

"The turnaround has been extremely challenging for every single person involved.

"If you throw in a global pandemic as well, which no-one saw coming, I can't think of anything more challenging than to turn a business like this around in the face of the pandemic, but we're doing it.

"This level of business change in a single year is hardly ever attempted and, while there remains significant work to complete around the improvement of systems and processes, a huge amount has been achieved.

"We are confident, despite many challenges, that 2021 will be a pivotal year in securing the long-term future of the shipyard.

Mr Hair said: "I've led business turnarounds since 1995 but, without wanting to be over-dramatic, this will be the thing I'm proudest of once the job is done.

"I'm very aware of the importance of shipbuilding and this shipyard to Inverclyde, and the obligations that places upon me.

"It's obviously a very important part of the community and we will ensure its long term future."

*Recruitment firm Advantage is managing the search and appointment of contract workers to fill the vacancies. CVs can be sent to ferguson.marine@advantagegroup.co.uk