CONCERNS have been raised that regulatory clearances for the two fiasco ferries at Ferguson's were not made in good time - after it emerged they failed to comply with safety rules that are seven years old.

Further delays and rising costs are expected in relation to Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa which remain under construction at nationalised Ferguson Marine.

Safety clearances for both ferries were rejected on June 1, sparking a redesign.

Among the issues to be resolved surrounds the installation of the evacuation routes on the ships in order to satisfy the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

It has emerged that according to the MCA, Ferguson Marine approached the safety body about the escape routes on April 11 this year and the plan was rejected.

The issues related to 2016 cargo ship rules, linked to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which states the requirements for means of escape.

Matters regarding requirements over additional protection to ladders and stairways as well as fire shelters and a means of escape from workshops within machinery spaces have been called into question.

Greenock Telegraph: Ferguson Marine and (inset) David Tydeman

David Tydeman, chief executive of nationalised Ferguson Marine has said that the issues had been the result of the MCA reassessing cargo ship rules.

The MCA said there had not been any rule changes, but there had been an 'interpretation' of what was required and that could already be seen in other CalMac vessels.

They said that the issues came as part of an approval process during the build, where they identify areas of non-compliance. 

MSP Edward Mountain, former convenor of the Scottish Parliament rural economy and connectivity committee which branded the ferry fiasco management process a 'castastrophic failure', said: “On initial investigation, this is deeply complacent or hugely incompetent, or perhaps a mixture of both."

Mr Mountain added: "Naval architects will support the argument that the MCA should have been part of the sign off on the drawings and involved in every stage of it so there were no surprises on completion, which is what we’ve got."

The work meant planned sea trials of the Glen Sannox have been delayed until the first quarter of next year.

CalMac had expected Glen Sannox to be handed over in December 2023, and Glen Rosa in December 2024. They say that once handed over there will be a two month period where we will carry out crew familiarisation and network trials.

The latest update from the Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard raised further fears that the Glen Sannox would not be available for the start of the 2024 summer season.

Ferguson boss Mr Tydeman had previously stated he was optimistic that Glen Sannox should be available to passengers in spring 2024.

Both vessels were originally due online in the first half of 2018, with both now to serve Arran, but are at least five years late, with costs expected to be quadruple the original £97m contract.

Mr Tydeman said last month in relation to the issues: "The MCA have reassessed the application of 'cargo ship' rules to the crew spaces of passenger ferries (on a broader basis than just Ferguson and Glen Sannox/802) and for the last two months we have been working to close the impacts of this and some other approvals issues."

Greenock Telegraph: David Tydeman of Ferguson Marine

It comes after ministers were accused of wasting millions over major changes to plans for the launch of vessels.

A ferry user group official said that it 'beggared belief' that the issues had not been spotted and dealt with sooner.

"While the building of ferries is accepted to be a hugely complicated affair, it is incredible that safety issues relating to established rules are discovered so late in the day."

Scottish Government-owned ferry owners and procurers Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) warned two months ago that the work rate would have to 'increase considerably' to meet the completion deadline.

Greenock Telegraph:

Wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray has so far been unable to explain the depths of the delays in relation to the new issues.

He has told MSPs that he was unaware of any issues when he gave his last parliamentary update, understood to have been in May.

He said the MCA involvement was no 'minor thing' and that it would be 'inappropriate' for him to intervene.