MINISTERS have come under fire after a bold £800m blueprint to build a fleet of 50 catamarans using Inchgreen dry dock and Ferguson's shipyard was sunk.

The plan to solve Scotland's ferry crisis was revealed last year by the Tele, with Inchgreen dry dock in Greenock and the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow an integral part of it.

It was fronted by businessman Stuart Ballantyne, a Scottish naval architect and chairman of Australian marine consulting firm Sea Transport Solutions, whose designs are used in around 50 countries.

The Clyde Catamaran Group held meetings with ministers over the idea, proposing new new ferries over 20 years that it said would cost a fraction of those currently being built.

The consortium now say that despite those discussions there has been no interest in taking the plan forward by either ministers or Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the taxpayer-funded Port Glasgow-based company which owns and procures ferries.

The group includes Professor Alf Baird, former director of the Maritime Research Group at Napier University, who said: "Ministers' apparent disrespect and rejection of such an offer from one of the world's foremost established designers and innovators in the small ferry market is difficult to comprehend, especially given ongoing service issues throughout Scotland due to ferry design and procurement failure."

Mr Ballantyne said that a seminar at the University of Strathclyde to explain the vision was personally attended by Robbie Drummond, the chief executive and managing director of CalMac but not by representatives of CMAL, despite invitations.

READ MORE: All you need to know about the Ferguson Marine bailout

CMAL said a representative attended through an online stream.

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(From left) Peter Breslin,  Stuart Ballantyne and Professor Alf Baird 

Mr Ballantyne, who nine years ago received an honorary degree from Strathclyde University for services to the global maritime industry, said: "CMAL are just not interested. They are still dismissive of catamarans."

It was envisaged that the major catamaran project would revitalise Clyde shipbuilding using Ferguson Marine, Inchgreen and the Govan dry dock.

READ MORE: Ministers told to scrap CMAL to create ferries agency and keep CalMac

Expert Mr Baird said: "Neither Stuart nor I received any interest in our proposal from the Scottish Government, which is disappointing. There was some hope we might at least be asked to discuss the matter further with them.

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Stuart Ballantyne's standard 50m catamaran ferry design became part of a 30-vessel Philippines fleet

"The Scottish Government own a ferry yard in Ferguson Marine and the Scottish public sector desperately needs some 50+ new ferries for domestic use over the next 15-20 years.

"All that is lacking is a coherent costed shipbuilding strategy which the proven catamaran designs would provide and also offering faster delivery times than CMAL's unproven and problematic monohull prototypes.

"The same officials dealing with procurement during the Ferguson fiasco are still in post and have not altered their approach as far as I am aware."

To succeed in bringing major shipbuilding back to the Clyde would require funding and the group had been seeking public money through the Scottish Government and private investors for the upgrading of Inchgreen and Govan.

A spokesperson for CMAL said: “CMAL is not anti-catamaran; but what often goes unreported is that in geographies similar to Scotland, with comparable weather and sea conditions, medium speed (below 20 knots) catamarans are not a common choice for passenger / commercial ferry services.

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"In fact, of the 435 ferries (passengers, cars and freight) operating from Dover Strait northwards, including the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Scandinavian fjords – only six are catamarans. There are good reasons for this.

"An important factor in vessel choice is compatibility with specific routes, as well as flexibility to meet vessel redeployment needs across the network. We will only ever order the vessels best suited to the routes and communities they are intended to serve."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to delivering six new major vessels to the Calmac fleet by 2026.

"All options are considered in developing new vessels for particular routes. Procurement of new vessels would need to be undertaken in line with relevant legislation and process, with local authorities responsible for the procurement of their own vessels.”