THE first of four new ferries ordered for Scottish routes from a shipyard in Turkey has an official launch date.

The new MV Isle of Islay ferry, which is being built by the Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard east of Istanbul, will be launched on March 16, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has announced.

The contract for two ferries was awarded to the shipyard in March 2022. The MV Isle of Islay, which will serve Islay and Jura, is expected to be delivered in October of this year.

In December 2022, it was announced that the Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard would also be building two more ferries for Scottish routes, bringing the total to four.

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After the launch of the MV Isle of Islay, the MV Loch Indaal is estimated to be ready by February 2025, followed by two as-yet-unnamed vessels in June and October next year.

CMAL owns 12 major vessels, six of which are being replaced. The final two are being built at the Ferguson Marine Shipyard on the Clyde.

The two ferries at the Scottish shipyard are already six years late and hundreds of millions of pounds overbudget. Initial cost estimates for the two boats were around £97 million, but they now sit closer to £360m.

Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL, said: “Work at the Cemre shipyard continues to progress well, with the project coming in on time and on budget.

“We look forward to witnessing the launch, which is a major milestone in the vessel’s construction.

“We look forward to celebrating with the community towards the end of the year, where the vessel will be officially given its name, MV Isle of Islay.”

The National:

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said: “I’m pleased that the MV Isle of Islay will be launched at the Cemre shipyard in March.

“Delivering six new major vessels to serve Scotland’s ferry network by 2026 is a priority for this Government and this is an important milestone as part of that commitment.

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“Ahead of entering service later this year, I look forward to joining the community as we celebrate and officially name the new vessel.

“People will welcome a more resilient and modern ferry service for Islay and Jura, and further vessels will soon bring similar and highly anticipated improvements for island communities across Scotland.”

The Isle of Islay, along with its sister vessel the Loch Indaal, will have capacity for up to 450 passengers and 100 cars.

An official naming ceremony will take place on Islay towards the end of the year, where community representatives and stakeholders will be invited to board and tour the vessel to celebrate its arrival.