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Launch date set for delayed CalMac ferry MV Glen Rosa

A launch date has been set for MV Glen Rosa, a long-delayed CalMac ferry being constructed at Ferguson shipyard.

The ship will finally glide down the slipway into the River Clyde at Port Glasgow on 12 March next year.

The ferry was meant to be delivered to CalMac in August 2018, but that is currently scheduled for May 2025.

The vessel's sister ship, Glen Sannox, was launched by Nicola Sturgeon six years ago and is due for delivery next spring.

The construction of the two ferries has been plagued by design challenges, cost overruns and delays.

The £97m contract was awarded by government-owned procurement agency CMAL in 2015 when the shipyard was led by businessman Jim McColl.

Both CMAL and Mr McColl's company FMEL later blamed each other for the problems encountered during the build, and the yard collapsed into administration in 2019 before being nationalised.

The yard's current boss, David Tydeman, has said the design challenges on the first ship Glen Sannox have been more complex than for a Type 26 frigate, the Royal Navy's latest warships.

But he has promised to learn and apply lessons during the ongoing construction of Glen Rosa, which until recently was known only as Hull 802.

When Glen Sannox was famously launched with painted on windows and plywood funnels in November 2017, Mr Tydeman has said it was, in effect, an "empty ship", with far too much outfitting work still to be completed.

Glen Rosa is expected to be about 50% heavier than Glen Sannox when it finally leaves the slipway because far more equipment has already been fitted.

That will pose its own challenges - the date and time will have been chosen to ensure the river has a sufficiently high tide.

If more outfitting work is required on Glen Sannox, it will be moved to another part of the river so that Glen Rosa can be berthed beside the shipyard for completion.

When the order was placed, Glen Rosa was intended to serve the "Uig triangle" route between Skye, North Uist and Harris but it is now expected to be deployed to the Arran route where Glen Sannox is also due to enter service.

LNG ships

Both ships have dual-fuel propulsion systems, using traditional marine diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG), and will be the first LNG ships built by a UK shipyard.

The yard's former owner Mr McColl argued they should have been regarded as prototypes, a claim denied by CMAL which insisted the technology was well-established and straightforward.

LNG is a cleaner fuel, producing fewer exhaust pollutants and potentially 25% less greenhouse gases, but that figure does not include the carbon cost of transporting the fuel to the ships.

Under current plans the LNG will be imported from Qatar and driven by road tanker from a terminal in Kent to North Ayrshire. They will be the only LNG ships in the CalMac fleet.

Four other new CalMac vessels currently under construction in Turkey use more conventional engines and have significantly less cargo carrying capacity. Those ships are said to be progressing well with the first due for delivery in late 2024.