A RECRUITMENT crisis at Ferguson's shipyard has resulted in its boss admitting he now doesn't know when the two heavily delayed Caledonian MacBrayne ferries will be finished.

Turnaround director Tim Hair had been looking to take on 120 additional skilled workers as part of a major push to transform the yard into a seven-day operation and complete the vessels in as quick a timescale as possible.

But it has emerged that last weekend's shift comprised of only 29 staff.

Now Mr Hair has been forced to tell a Holyrood committee that it is impossible to say with certainty when MV Glen Sannox and the unnamed 'Hull 802' will be ready for service.

Mr Hair said: "It is not therefore possible to provide a definitive schedule for completion of the vessels at this time."

The ships had been due to enter service on the Arran and Skye/Outer Hebrides routes in 2018/19.

In a previous statement, Mr Hair said that he was aiming to deliver Glen Sannox between April and June next year.

The Telegraph told last month how forced shutdowns at the yard had piled a further £4.3m onto the cost of the two already heavily over-budget ferries.

Work on the crisis-hit dual fuel vessels was suspended for four months during the first lockdown and there was a further four-week stoppage earlier this year.

The current total cost to the public purse of the project — which originally had a fixed price of £97m — is more than double that today.

Mr Hair insists the yard remains 'on track' to deliver the ferries within the additional budget of between £110m and £114m which has been allocated to him by the Scottish Government.

But only a quarter of posts advertised for the weekend shift have been filled and weekday staffing is 30 short of what is required.

Mr Hair said: "Skilled labour is proving very difficult to recruit locally and it seems that the pool of skilled workers available to Ferguson is unable to meet our resource requirements.

"We are now expediting our plans for subcontracting and the introduction of non-UK labour, both in full compliance with the relevant Covid controls."

Workforce holidays are also proving to be an obstacle to completing the ferries expeditiously.

Mr Hair said: "Very little of the current year's holiday entitlement has been used, meaning that there is an exceptional number of holidays still to be taken which will adversely affect the resourcing of the project."

The costs...

£97m — original fixed price for design the ferries

£110m to £114m — for 'remedial work' to complete the vessels

£45m — The Scottish Government's 'written down' loans to Ferguson's

£4.3m — cost of two Covid-related shutdowns