WORK is underway to procure two new ferries for the Clyde and Hebrides network, the Scottish Government has announced.

The new ferries will be secured with additional funding given to Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) by the Scottish Government in an effort to replace vessels in the CalMac fleet.

The two ships will be built to the same specification as existing vessels under construction for Islay and are intended to be used in the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert.

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The Government says that the ships will speed up the replacement of the major fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes.

It is expected that the contract to build the vessels will be awarded before the end of the year – with overall project costs estimated to be around £115 million, which includes allowances for minor port improvements.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said the Scottish Government is “absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet” and “better meeting the needs of island communities”.

She added: “Our intention is that these ferries would be deployed on the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, delivering dedicated services to communities in the peak season rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place. This will create the opportunity for significantly increased capacity and resilience for the communities of the Western Isles.

“It will also allow consideration of all options to deploy Vessel 802 on an alternative route, including potentially alongside her sister ship, the MV Glen Sannox, to provide additional capacity to and from Arran in the peak season. All the options will be discussed with island communities at the appropriate time.

“Since this government was elected in May 2021, we have bought and deployed an additional vessel in the MV Loch Frisa in June, previously chartered the MV Arrow to provide additional capacity, made significant progress in the construction of vessels 801 and 802, commissioned two new vessels for Islay and progressed investment to improve key ports and harbours.

"Now, we are delivering a further two new vessels as well as continuing to work on pursuing all reasonable and appropriate opportunities to enhance capacity and resilience in the short term through second hand vessels.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has also welcomed the announcement.

He said: "The announcement that two new ferries will be built is to be warmly welcomed and I commend transport minister Jenny Gilruth for listening to voices from the island communities. I met with Ms Gilruth earlier this year and made clear that the current situation was completely unsustainable, and progress was needed. 

“I am also very glad to hear that the Scottish Government is pursuing all reasonable and appropriate opportunities to enhance capacity and resilience in the short term through second-hand vessels. The Transport Minister has assured me that work is underway in that area. 

“We must investigate building tunnels in the long term as it would be cheaper than building and maintaining ferries. This is shown in the Faroes with the construction of undersea tunnels.” 

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive at CMAL, said: “This is a highly welcome commitment from the Scottish Government, which allows us to increase the pace of vessel replacement plans in line with our ambitions. This additional investment will bring two new vessels to the fleet, meaning a total of six major vessels will be replaced by 2026. It also means communities in Harris and North Uist will benefit from a two vessel service, a move that will strengthen overall resilience.”