Ferry fiasco needs judge investigated


There is no evidence that progress in building two delayed ships at Ferguson Marine has not improved since the shipyard became the property of the Scottish Government.

This is the chaotic situation and political and managerial incompetence which has developed over the years in ferry services to the West Isles of Scotland, resulting in their non-performance.

These issues must now be highlighted so that ferry service users and the general public can better understand the nature of the problem, its importance and the steps to be taken to resolve it.

It is essential to understand that unless urgent corrective action is taken, island communities will have to live with the same problems for years to come. The unease is so deep and the governance structure is so dysfunctional that money alone is not going to fix it.

A line needs to be drawn, which is why I think there should be a judge-led inquiry into how we got to where we are and the immediate replacement of existing boards with a single group made up exclusively of people with shipping knowledge and experience.

Much has been written about the two vessels currently under construction at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. Much of what has been written is technical in nature and offers complex numbers that are not easy to understand.

It may be useful to simplify the inventory:

1) Both ships are the wrong ships.

2) They are poorly designed.

3) They were assigned to the wrong shipyard.

4) They were designed at the wrong time.

5) They were awarded at the wrong price.

6) They may never work properly.

It is important that the issues with these ships are understood, but we also need to take a deeper look at why we came to the Ferguson Marine chaos – the monstrous overruns on delivery times, the monstrous cost overruns, the loans. to the shipyard and possible nationalization, which had no effect on the progress of construction.

We need to look at the lack of strategy and planning that is causing the ferry service to fail, as well as the lack of accountability of those responsible for failures in a larger context.

The current structure looks like this.

* The responsible Scottish minister (s).

* Ferry Division of Transport in Scotland

* Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries (CalMac).

* Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

* Agencies and entrepreneurs in the business.

These ministers and quangos are mutually responsible for strategy and planning, policy, financing, ownership, supply and operation of ferries.

This complicated arrangement allows for lack of certainty, lack of accountability, vested interests and political control. This does not bode well for accepting failure or urgent recovery action.

Looking at the relationship and responsibilities between CMAL, as the owner of the asset, and CalMac, as the operator of the vessel, it would be remarkable if these two bodies were to agree on important issues such as the vessels needed. and which are best suited to each service, the timing of the replacement of the vessel and other operational matters.

Obviously, this ideal relationship is the exact opposite of reality. As a result, there was an extremely negative impact on the overall performance due to the non-alignment of important decisions.

I believe it is essential to consider the following “basics”. Simply put, a shipowner is recognized as a shipowner because:

6) It carries passengers.

This is what a shipowner does.

The risks and benefits of being a shipowner are

The current oversight structure of the ferry service was responsible for digging a hole through the top five hazards, with the disaster we now see as the result.

It becomes clear from examining all of the Council members in all of the aforementioned quangos that there is not a single individual in any of these responsible groups with shipowner experience or effective ferry operation experience. Nor is there a single former sailor with a navigation background on any of these boards. In particular, it is extraordinary that no sailor or ship manager with navigation experience is represented on CalMac’s board of directors.

Since there are many accountants, lawyers and non-executive directors in these organizations, it is no wonder that politics takes greater precedence in this structure and environment.

Here are some of the current issues, but not all:

The Ferries Plan was drawn up in 2011, ten years ago, and is no longer applicable.

– The belief that ferries on these services can or should last 25 or 30 years is wrong because it does not take into account unreliability.

– The fleet replacement plan was neither reasonable nor deliverable.

– The procurement system in its current form is not sustainable.

– The belief that the equivalent road tariff could be implemented without significant impact on volume was wrong.

– The terms and conditions for seafarers are unrealistic.

– The two replacement vessels remain incomplete and in peril.

It is also important that any competition with existing services is frowned upon, allowing the current subsidized business to continue at a lower level than any normal measure of competence.

The conclusion must be that the current ferry service is a failed endeavor, which must be treated accordingly.

It is a failed enterprise because it does not meet any of the criteria set out in the various documents produced by the control bodies in terms of performance and ambition, and is therefore not suited to its objective in its current form.

Here is Caledonian MacBrayne’s mission statement as an example:

“Caledonian MacBrayne will provide safe, reliable and affordable ferry services to the Clyde and Hebrides Islands. CalMac will provide high quality service focused on the needs and comfort of customers. CalMac is committed to the highest management standards and aims to be recognized as the UK’s leading ferry company, providing value for money, supporting the economy, protecting the environment and offering a stimulating workplace to all its employees. “

Which begs the question: what do the inhabitants of the western islands think? Whoever is responsible and for whatever reason, it is clear that Caledonian MacBrayne is unable to fulfill his own mission statement.

The two hulls at Port Glasgow and the chaotic nature of the Ferguson Marine process in commercial and technical terms describe a process that has failed from the start to date, with no evidence of any construction controls or funding required to conduct to well a project which was questionable on the part of the beginning.

The lack of strategy and planning for fleet replacement is a shocking example of the failure to seize the opportunity to deliver a modern fleet that is not only fit for purpose, but actually aligns with everything. the management discourse produced by the Scottish government and its agencies.

The only organization that has failed to audit this mess is Audit Scotland, and although it partially did, it failed.

This is what should happen now.

1) We need a judge-led investigation into all of the above, starting immediately.

2) We need to remove all advice from the quangos and create a one-purpose group with a clear mandate to create a valid strategy and a radical plan to reclaim the vision, which is a vital service, and deliver it.

3) We need to make sure that whoever is responsible is fully responsible.

4) As a result of a review of the existing fleet, especially the larger vessels, we need to create a vessel renewal plan and implement it, taking into account all aspects, including long-term funding term required.

5) We need to quickly come up with a reasonable supply system and have the ships built in the fastest and most cost effective way.

6) We need to mobilize all resources within the existing management group to ensure that existing ships can operate in the most efficient manner until new builds can be delivered. If the existing management in CalMac cannot adequately handle the current situation, then it should be reviewed. The recent series of outages did not materialize suddenly but were anticipated for years without being properly managed or planned.

7) The one-purpose group of ferry and shipping professionals to urgently review the ongoing disaster at Ferguson Marine and identify which aspects of the project are commercially and technically valid, both with the shipyard and the two incomplete ships.

8) The Scottish Government must accept responsibility for the failure of the ferry service and step back. It should now allow maritime transport professionals to manage the recovery.

Without addressing the professionalism and skills of the people involved in creating this debacle as well as the decision-making and accountability structures, we’re not going anywhere.


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