THE new Arran Ferry could be delayed until 2019, it has been revealed.

The Glen Sannox will be officially launched next week by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, but it delivery of it to the island will be delayed from summer to winter next year.

Ferguson Marine chief executive, Jim McColl, has informed the SNP Government, which is paying £97million for the Glen Sannox and its sister ship.

The 102-metre vessels will be the first in the UK to use environmentally-friendly liquefied natural gas and marine gas.

Mr McColl said: “We are disappointed by the delays caused by the challenges presented by the vessels’ specification.

“Nevertheless, the foresight shown by the SNP Government in pursuing a low carbon future in the ferry sector provides Scottish industry with an excellent platform to establish a leading position in low carbon marine technology globally.”

Although Ferguson Marine and vessel owners Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd (CMAL) continue to work closely together on engineering issues arising from the dual fuel ferry project’s unique design, the ferries will not be ready on time.

Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP, said he was disappointed by the delay.

He said: “It is now important that all parties involved in the project refocus and ensure the ferries are delivered to this new timescale.

“I have agreed with Ferguson Marine and CMAL that, in line with good practice on other major infrastructure projects, a third party peer review will be undertaken by industry experts.

“This will explore whether any time can be recovered and seek more specific delivery dates for the two vessels.

“We should view this in the wider context of the efforts both workers and management at Ferguson Marine have made to construct two innovative vessels, in parallel with the investment to modernise the shipyard.

“The scale of the necessary upgrade has made day-to-day operations at the yard more complicated, impacting on achieving key milestones for the vessels.

“The good news is that the shipyard is now fit to complete the new vessels and deliver future projects.”

Local MSP Kenneth Gibson added: “Although the initial dates for the new ferries joining the CalMac fleet were always ambitious, there was deep disappointment at Monday night’s meeting of the Isle of Arran Ferry Committee that the Glen Sannox will not serve the Ardrossan to Brodick route in late summer 2018 as previously envisaged, due to technical challenges.

“However, work on the Glen Sannox is being prioritised to ensure that, after completion and sea trials it will be ready to sail from Ardrossan to serve the people of Arran and its visitors from early 2019.”