Scots ferry fiasco yard sets its sights on building warships for the Bangladesh navy

Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine is in negotiations to build warships for the Bangladesh navy, the Sunday Mail has learned.

The troubled yard in Port Glasgow has struggled to deliver two CalMac ferries which are four years overdue and two-and-a-half times over budget at £240million.

But now we can reveal how the Inverclyde site, which was nationalized in 2019, has held preliminary talks with a number of prospective international clients for future work – including for military ships.

When asked about the Bangladesh vessels, a spokeswoman said: “We are involved in discussions with multiple potential customers, both domestic and international, for contracts covering a range of vessel types including ferries, offshore patrol vessels and offshore wind farm service vessels.

“We are actively pursuing the next vessel order but all discussions are commercially sensitive.

“Details of any secured contract will be announced when the time is right.”

A scathing report from Audit Scotland has slammed ministers over the absence of contractual safeguards at Ferguson Marine to protect public money.

BNS Bangabandhu Frigate of the Bangladesh Navy is docked at Hamad Port during the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition & Conference last month

It is unclear if or when the CalMac vessels will enter service.

Several River Class offshore patrol vessels have been built in Scotland for the Royal Navy in recent years by BAE.

Bangladesh – one of the world’s poorest countries – revealed in November plans to purchase five ships from the UK as part of a military modernization program.

The decision is understood to have been reached at a meeting at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

But the UK Government has not said where ships could potentially be built, and any deal is understood to be “in principle” at the moment.

If Ferguson Marine was in the running for the work it could mean a company owned by the Scottish Government bidding for a contract from the UK Government.

Alternatively, if the Scottish Government or Ferguson Marine was attempting to negotiate directly with Bangladesh, it could lead to a dispute between Holyrood and Westminster.

Labor MSP Paul Sweeney said: “It would be great if Ferguson Marine won this work but that is far from certain.

“Even if it did it wouldn’t solve the long term challenges for shipbuilding in Scotland.

“The company needs to build from a base of delivering the two CalMac ferries, which it has failed to do so far.

“The Scottish and UK Governments should be coming up with a joined-up national plan for shipbuilding that utilized all of the assets we have across the county but we are not getting that at the moment.”

The Ferguson Marine shipyard on April 1, 2022 in Port Glasgow
The Ferguson Marine shipyard on April 1, 2022 in Port Glasgow

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said he wants to acquire additional ships to improve monitoring and protection of its maritime territory.

He did not disclose specific details about the type of ships his country would be purchasing.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the Scottish Government will “learn lessons” from the delays and overspends at Ferguson Marine.

Audit Scotland has said the cost of the two delayed ferries could run to two-and-a-half times the original £97million price tag.

The original agreement was made without a refund guarantee that would protect public money – and the report said there was no paper trail explaining why the contract was signed off without the clause in place.

The Scottish Government-owned ferry attorney, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal), also raised concerns about the lack of guarantee.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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