New Hebridean ferries to be battery-powered
Two battery-powered ferries are to be built on the Clyde, re-starting civilian shipbuilding on the river.
The £22m contract for the owners of CalMac's fleet of Hebridean ferries has been placed with Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow.
The privately-owned yard has 100 staff at present, working on other marine projects.
It intends to recruit at least 75 more workers, including apprentices, to fulfil the two-year contract.
Battery power has been used for decades on naval submarines, but it is a new technology for ferries.
The 900-tonne ships, designed to carry up to 150 passengers and 23 cars, are designed for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.
That requires lithium ion batteries weighing up to six tonnes.
According to Ferguson's managing director, Richard Deane, the ships should be able to charge from the national grid overnight, drawing on renewable energy.
They will also have diesel generators on board, to top up the charge.
The £22m cost is higher than for similar conventionally-powered ships, but it is claimed the design will reduce lifetime costs and lead to long-term savings.
The order has been placed by Caledonian Maritime Assets, the government-owned company that owns the ships operated by Cal-Mac.