Staggering £3.5million wage bill for crew of unfinished Scots ferry that's never carried a single passenger

TAXPAYERS have spent £3.5million paying the wages for crew on one of Scotland’s delayed ferries despite it not carrying a single passenger.

The Scottish Government hired 14 staff to work on the over budget and late MV Glen Sannox in 2022 when officials believed it was six months from completion.

But two years on, the crew have yet to work on the job they were hired to do and have been paid the huge sum in wages, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

Scottish Lib Dem economy spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP said: “I have my head in my hands. Yet more money wasted on these dreaded ferries.

“We know there were discussions about possible construction delays when CalMac decided to employ the crew members, which makes it particularly troubling that they pushed ahead with recruitment regardless.

The Caledonian MacBrayne ferries MV Glen Sannox (top) and MV Glen Rosa (bottom) under construction at Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow on the River Clyde in January 2024
The Caledonian MacBrayne ferries MV Glen Sannox (top) and MV Glen Rosa (bottom) under construction at Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow on the River Clyde in January 2024 -Credit:PA Wire

“Bills, delays and disruptions are all islanders and taxpayers have ever known from these ferries. As one of his first acts, John Swinney must get a grip of this never-ending ferry fiasco.”

The Glen Sannox has yet to enter service after a catalogue of construction delays.

The total wage bill includes three captains and 11 engineers while a further five officers were taken on last year.

The vessel, along with a second ship the Glen Rosa, were supposed to be delivered in 2018 and the price tag has grown from an initial estimate of £97million to over £360million.

Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said “The SNP’s woeful mismanagement of this ferry project has left islanders stranded and taxpayers picking up the tab.

“Workers on both the ferry and at the shipyard have been left in the lurch by this incompetent SNP government and the chaos it has created.

“There must be no more delays or added costs to the delivery of these lifeline ferries.”

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “CalMac must have crew ready for these vessels. The problem, of course, is that they have taken so long to build.

“CalMac were doing the right thing but they have been let down, as have our islanders, by this whole fiasco.

“It is just another example of how money has been wasted during this flawed project.”

Exclusive drone footage taken by the Sunday Mail showed the vessel docked on the Clyde near Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow.

Very few workers could been seen on the ship, which is now afloat and has been undergoing sea trials.

The Ferguson shipyard first won a contract from a government-owned procurement agency CMAL to build the vessels for CalMac in 2016 and it was hoped they would have been completed in two years.

However, the firm, then under the control of tycoon Jim McColl, fell into administration and was nationalised at the end of 2019.

Duncan Mackison, interim CEO of CalMac, said normal procedure is for senior crew staff to be hired six months before a new ferry launches.

He said: “A number of senior crew already recruited to operate MV Glen Sannox have been working hard on both preparing the vessel for service and supporting existing CalMac operations.

“Three Masters and 11 engineers joined CalMac in February 2022, at a time when MV Glen Sannox was scheduled to be delivered in July 2022. An additional five officer roles were filled in November 2023, at a time when delivery was expected between March and May 2024.

“Senior crew members for any new vessel are required to attend the yard where the vessel is being built.

“Roles such as masters and senior engineers play a critical part in getting vessels ready to enter service and have developed operating procedures, work instructions and vessel familiarisation for MV Glen Sannox.

“Time for all of this is factored into recruitment and the crew members we have recruited have spent a significant amount of time at Ferguson Marine.

“They have provided cover and relief on other major vessels in our fleet at various points, allowing us to maintain services across the CalMac network.

“The recruitment process for a new vessel’s crew is staggered, beginning with senior positions approximately six months in advance and progressively filling other roles as the delivery and then deployment date approached.

“The full crew is typically only in place four weeks prior to delivery. CalMac looks forward to taking delivery of MV Glen Sannox and getting her operationally ready to enter service and improve the service we provide to and from Arran.

“We have not recruited any crew for MV Glen Rosa yet and will follow due process as we have done with MV Glen Sannox.”

Glen Sannox finally began sea trials earlier this year but delivery was delayed another two moths in April, while the Glen Rosa is still under construction.

During the Glen Sannox’s initial trials, the vessel was found to “gather pace, slow down and stop many times”.

Labour peer Lord Robertson, who was chairman of privately owned Western Ferries, has told MSPs taxpayers are “being robbed” over the fiasco.

The ferries will be the first ever constructed which are capable of running on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

However, problems with the complex cutting edge technology has been behind many of the delays

The LNG has to be kept at -162C to remain in liquid form and the shipyard is dependent on specialist contractors for much of the work on its special insulated fuel tank and cryogenic pipework.

The ship is extremely complex, with 16 different propulsion options, 12,500 pipe sections and 186 miles (300km) of cables – enough to stretch from Port Glasgow to Aberdeen.

Last year, we revealed the Glen Sannox will include a gym and dozens of staff cabins for one-hour crossings to Arran.

Angry campaigners said the MV Glen Sannox is not fit for purpose after plans obtained by the Sunday Mail showed workers are assigned more space than onfoot passengers.

The ferry has 38 cabins and suites for a crew of just 26, a gym, recreation room, mess room and changing facilities for those working onboard.

Roy Pedersen, a former member of the Scottish Government’s Ferry Industry Advisory Group, called it a “floating luxury hotel” all at public expense.

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