New ferries to be built for Clyde and Hebrides network
New ships are to be ordered for use on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services network.
Scottish government agency Transport Scotland has started the procurement process to design and build two new ferries.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, has sought interest from firms in bidding for the work.
The first vessel is to be delivered by the end of 2017.
The second will be operating on routes "some months" after that, Transport Scotland said.
Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) would operate the ferries.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said he was delighted to announce the procurement process.
He said: "I have made clear my commitment to supporting ferry users around Scotland by providing safe and reliable services, and this is the latest step to ensuring we have a fleet that continues to deliver for the communities that depend on it.
"The ferries are being designed to provide a fully flexible year-round service for Arran and the Uig Triangle, subject to final review by CalMac Ferries Ltd, CMAL and Transport Scotland.
"The vessels they replace will be cascaded throughout the network.
"We are now focused on carrying out a competitive and detailed procurement process and look forward to adding the new vessels to the CalMac fleet."
Tom Docherty, CMAL's Chief Executive, said: "We're delighted to announce two new additions to our fleet, which demonstrates CMAL's commitment to providing lifeline ferries to communities on the Western Isles and the west coast of Scotland.
"I look forward to the start of a new project and watching the work progress."
Each ferry will have a carrying capacity of 1,000 passengers, 127 cars or 16 heavy goods vehicles.
The MV Loch Seaforth, a new ferry for CalMac's Ullapool-Stornoway route, is expected to arrive in Scotland "within weeks".
The ship is being completed at a yard in Germany.