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Monday, August 19, 2019 

Ferguson Marine Shipyard in Port Glasgow, Scotland, is now set to enter public ownership.

The Scottish Government was, apparently, left with no alternative than to agree with the administrators to take over responsibility for management of the yard in order to see completion of the two ferries, for the state-run CalMac.

However, the future of the yard beyond that still seems uncertain. In order for the Ferguson yard to  survive it needs to win more orders, not only for more CalMac ferries but private sector and naval contracts too. Ferguson has been considered in connection with the Royal Navy Type 31e frigates; indeed, the unions want to see a commitment from the public sector in the form of ferry and naval orders. Ferguson, under its previous ownership, had been mentioned in connection with Bangladesh patrol vessel contracts, aquaculture supply vessels, Asian oil industry hovercraft projects and a hydrogen-fuelled ferry for the Orkneys, as well being part of a consortium to build the frigates, but a sound future needs more than vague promises.

Derek Mackay, the Scottish finance and economy secretary, now becomes the effective boss of the yard, supported by a 'turnaround manager' and a board comprising various interested parties including the union convenor. The new management has been able to provide reassurance to the 300-plus workforce that jobs are safe, at least for the time being, and to the population of the Western Isles that that their long overdue ferries will be delivered.

However, the financial details of the nationalisation plan are far from settled - the total cost could be £142 million or more - and it is still uncertain what will happen in the longer term if a private buyer for the yard cannot be found, because, in the words of Mackay's team: "We really don't want to own a shipyard."

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