Public procurement body Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is starting a multi-million pound programme to replace seven ferries serving the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network.
Working together with Transport Scotland and ferry operator CalMac, CMAL plans to replace seven smaller ‘loch class’ ferries.
Transport Scotland approved a strategic business case for the Small Vessel Replacement Programme in late 2020 and CMAL will publish a contract notice this week inviting naval architects to work its vessels team on concept design and planning.
The programme timeline has not been finalised, but it is expected the procurement process for the replacement vessels will begin within the next 12 months, subject to approval of a more detailed business case providing options and their commercial and financial value.
The vessels to be potentially replaced include Motor Vessels Loch Striven, Loch Riddon, Loch Ranza, Loch Dunvegan, Loch Fyne, Loch Tarbert and Loch Linnhe. All vessels are approaching the end of their occupational life.
CMAL said there would be a clear focus on building low emissions vessels, in line with Scottish Government climate change commitments.
It will explore the latest proven battery and onshore charging technologies and draw on experience of designing and building the three diesel electric hybrid vessels, which represented a world-leading design at the time of launch in 2012.
As part of this, studies will be undertaken to identify which ports can accommodate onshore charging and storage equipment and will influence where new vessels are deployed.
A further core aim will be delivering increased standardisation in hull design, propulsion and internal layout, as well as improved reliability, resilience, accessibility and capacity.
CMAL said the programme “will apply relevant lessons learned from previous vessel delivery projects”.
It would take into account the hybrid ferries projects, as well as Audit Scotland’s 2017 report into Scottish ferry services and the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee inquiry into the procurement and construction of ferries in Scotland.
CMAL chief executive Kevin Hobbs called it a “highly ambitious and much-needed” renewal programme.
“Significant investment is required to reduce the average age of the vessel fleet and this plan is a major step towards our aim of bringing down the age of the fleet from 23 to 16 years.
“We are in the early stages of planning, but we’ve progressed at a good pace and we intend to continue with the current momentum to tender for shipbuilding contracts within the next year.
“Ferries are lifeline services and I expect island communities will welcome this news; they need safe, reliable and efficient services.”
Hobbs added: “The replacement of the small vessels forms part of our wider investment plans for ferry infrastructure, which also includes replacement of six major vessels, as well as modernising harbours.
“We know what needs to be done and it is our aim to achieve as much as we can within the next decade.”
A future phase two of the procurement programme will replace vessels to serve the Sound of Barra, Sound of Harris and Sound of Iona routes.
Don’t miss the latest headlines with our twice-daily newsletter – sign up here for free.