Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

UK’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) passenger ferry built and launched on the Clyde

I have to confess to a miserable failure, having spent too much time looking at the detail behind the first hybrid ferries launched and operated on the west of Scotland to follow up on their story.

Built for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) at Ferguson Shipbuilders, Port Glasgow, the hybrid ferries MV Hallaig and MV Lochinvar were announced back in 2012, and I gave the early details here The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

However, after their completion and entry into operation, I forgot about them (since I no longer ‘float’ around the Clyde) until I received a message to the effect that there had been some sort of problem with their batteries, and that they had failed to operate as expected.

Since I don’t like to rely purely on hearsay or a single unsubstantiated source, I never got around to finishing that story as I (then at least) couldn’t find any news reports or accounts of the problem.

Maybe somebody knows better, and will point me/us at proper details (or I might have another look).

But, this is really about the arrival of another new (here at least) technology for our ferries, unveiled at Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited’s Port Glasgow shipyard.

MV Glen Sannox

MV Glen Sannox can accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, is 102 m (335 ft) long and can carry 127 cars or 16 lorries. It can operate on marine gas oil (MGO) as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG), and is the first of two such ferries being built as part of a £97 million Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) contract. The second LNG ferry (as yet unnamed), is still under construction at the yard, and is planned for the Tarbert/Lochmaddy/Uig route.

Intended for the Ardrossan/Brodick route, the new ferry is set to begin operating in winter 2018/19, and will contribute to meeting emission  reduction targets set by the Government.

This sees the return of the name Glen Sannox to an active vessel, having been seen on a car and passenger ferry serving Clyde routes between 1957 and 1989.

Via UK’s first liquefied natural gas ferry launched on Clyde

Glen Sannox Port Glasgow

Glen Sannox Port Glasgow

Thomas Nugent’s catches are often rewarding, and it seems a shame not to offer credit for the research done regarding this particular (sole surviving) Clyde shipyard:

A series of photos of the construction of MV Glen Sannox, taken from the same spot over a period of eight months.

Shipbuilding is still thriving in Port Glasgow, 237 years after Thomas McGill opened the first yard in the town in 1780.

Ferguson Marine shipyard is the last shipyard on the Lower Clyde and is also the last yard in the UK capable of building merchant ships. Shipbuilding started on this site at Castle Road, off the A8, in 1791.

Things could have been very different; the yard entered administration in 2014, 70 staff were made redundant and it appeared that the town’s proud shipbuilding history had come to an end. However, East Kilbride based Clyde Blowers Capital, owned by Jim McColl OBE, purchased the yard and have invested millions of pounds in an on-going modernisation project that will see the yard enter a new era and seek out new markets.

The building on the left is the new shipyard new office complex. The ship under construction, now known as “Glen Sannox”, is a 102m long LNG (liquefied natural gas) powered car and passenger ferry for Caledonian Macbrayne. Part of her sister ship “Hull 802” can be seen on the right.

See the rest of his pics at: Building a ship in Port Glasgow :: Shared Description

LNG and a Scottish loch

There is, perhaps, a slight irony in the arrival of these ferries, as Loch Striven on the west of Scotland was once used to hold giant gas tankers, which lay dormant for some 14 years:

Nestor and Gastor were two refrigerated LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers completed during 1976 and 1977, intended to transport LNG from Algeria or Nigeria. The discovery of North Sea oil/gas in 1969, followed by the start of production on 1975, effectively rendered the tankers redundant, and they were laid up in the loch the with only a skeleton crew on board, They remained there until 1991, when Shell purchased them to transport LNG from Nigeria. Prior to undertaking the sea journey to France, the tankers were taken to the pier at Inverkip Power Station, where engineers reactivated the vessels and restored them to safe operation for the trip.

In the 11th November 2011 edition of the Dunoon Observer in the 20 YEARS AGO column an item,”Ghosts leaving” appeared:- “The twin ‘ghost ships’ of Loch Striven – giant gas tankers, the Castor (stet) and Nestor – were to be recommissioned after lying dormant in the Loch for 14 years. After a refurbishment by Shell UK, the Bermudan registered ships were to be used to transport liquefied natural gas between new gas fields off Nigeria and Europe and the USA. The 274 metre-long vessels were to be re-named the LNG Lagos and LNG Port Harcourt.”

Via our Loch Striven page

24/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inverclyde history project launched | Greenock | News | Greenock Telegraph

Museum symbolA history project focused on the area of Inverclyde is looking for contributions:

BOOKWORMS flocked to the launch of an exciting history project at South West Library earlier this week.

My Inverclyde: Local Studies in Local Libraries aims to give residents the chance to produce stories about their area.

The £17,000 initiative was prompted by an increased demand for access to local information across Inverclyde’s libraries.

Five different groups are now starting a 10-week course, representing My South West Greenock, My Gourock, My Inverkip and Wemyss Bay, My Kilmacolm and My Port Glasgow.

The project will allow researchers to build up material which reflects their own area.

via Inverclyde history project launched | Greenock | News | Greenock Telegraph.

19/01/2014 Posted by | Civilian, council, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Second CalMac hybrid ferry to be named Lochinvar

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of  new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.

The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.

The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.

Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.

The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.

Via New hybrid ferry named MV Lochinvar after Sir Walter Scott poem | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Sir Walter Scott, “Young Lochinvar”

11/04/2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland pioneers hybrid ferries, but could it go for battery as well?

I hadn’t realised it was just over a year to the day that I had first noticed and written about the pioneering hybrid ferries had commissioned, and were to be built in our very own Scottish shipyards – Fergusons Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow to be exact.

I won’t repeat the story behind these new ferries and their operation (you may read the original post here: The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real where links are given to the manufacturers description of the concept and its operation) , other than to say the two vessels are described as the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.

The first of the two hybrid ferries was completed recently, and the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00. The vessel is almost 150 feet long, and can accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars, or two heavy goods vehicles.

The launch was recorded by someone lucky enough to work at the yard, and get a privileged position:

See also: ‘Hybrid’ CalMac ferry launched from Port Glasgow

Completion for delivery into service with CalMac is expected to be completed during early 2013, with the new ferry expected to come into service on the route between Skye and Raasay next summer, following fitting out, testing and certification. Trial are expected to take place in April/May, with the handover taking place in May.

Hallaig has its own page on the excellent Ships Of CalMac web site.

So, since we appear to have a reasonably well thought out and Scottish-made hybrid ferry (and another in the pipeline) ready to go into service, why did I refer to battery operation in the title?

Battery ferries

While Scotland has its ‘world first’ as its first hybrid car ferry gets set to enter operation…

I have recently come across another ‘world first’ in the form of the first car ferry powered by a purely electric drive system, as reported by Siemens on January 9, 2013.

Working together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens announced development of the world’s first electrically powered car ferry, known as ZeroCat. Larger than Hallaig, their 80-metre (260 foot) vessel can accommodate up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, so is not only fully electric, but in a different class, given its ability to carry so many passengers.

Battery ferry

ZeroCat battery ferry – Siemens press picture

Due to enter service in 2015, ZeroCat will serve the route between Lavik and Oppedal, across the Sognefjord. The electrically powered ferry was developed in response to a competition organized by Norway’s Ministry of Transport, and won by shipping company Norled, which was also granted a license to operate the route until 2025 as part of its prize.

Instead of the 2,000-hp diesel engine which powers the current ferry and consumes on average more than 264,000 gallons (over 1 million litres) of diesel each year, and emits around 570 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 15 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NO),  ZeroCat uses an 800 kW, 11 tonne battery to drives two screws. Although the battery is heavy, the completed vessel weighs only half that of a conventional catamaran ferry, as its twin hulls are fabricated in aluminium. The hulls also use a particularly slim design which increases their efficiency, and Siemens estimates that the new ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.

One  critical requirements the design was required to satisfy was the need to fully charge the batteries in only 10 minutes – the time taken to turn the ferry around at each terminal. This power demand rendered conventional charging methods unsuitable, since neither port was supplied by a large enough electrical grid to deliver the required charging current.

Instead, each terminal is equipped with a high-capacity battery installation, able to be charged slowly while the ferry is en route. This means they are then ready to provide a quick “dump charge” in the 10 minute period during which the ferry is docked while it loads and unloads it cargo of passengers and cars.

Such a system would seem to be one which could be used to advantage in Scotland, where a number of short routes exist, and the ferry terminals are only a short distance apart. For example, Rhubodach/Colintraive, and Largs/Cumbrae come to mind in my own area.

These journeys are much shorter, and of lesser capacity than that given in the Norwegian example, simplifying the demands on the batteries, motors, and charging systems. The turnaround times are also somewhat longer here, allowing more relaxed charging criteria. Given the shorter routes, it should also be possible to relax the full charge requirement too, and allow such ferries to operate without having to receive a full charge at every docking.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone in this business now (I used to, long ago, and even worked on some ferries – no, not in the galley, but in a technical capacity), so have no idea if anything like this is even being considered for future vessels operating in Scottish waters.

05/02/2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PS Comet bicentenary web site launched

Replica Comet on the Clyde

Replica Comet on the Clyde

We’ve been watching for events associated with the bicentenary of the paddle steamer Comet, and PS Comet bicentenary second newsletter.

When the last newsletter was published, mention was made of a forthcoming web site dedicated to the events around the bicentenary. This has now been placed online, and can be found at:

Comet Bicentenary

03/02/2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

While it would unkind to say that I actually doubted the rumours that I first detected regarding ‘battery operated ferries’ coming to the Clyde, the stories did come as a surprise, meaning that whoever was going to undertake this venture (there were no real details given) had to be ready to try something new.

It wasn’t long before the story broke formally, and the news came of two hybrid RoRo (roll-on roll-off) diesel-electric ferries, described as a world first for such sea-going vessels.

While the principle of using diesel (or other) powered generators to power electric propulsion units (eliminating the need for a direct connection of a drive-shaft between the engine and the propeller), combining this with rechargeable batteries which will supply a minimum of 20% of energy consumed was new.

I’m afraid I find little that ever makes me agree with those I refer to as ‘professional CalMac bashers’, and the fact that CalMac went with this proposal is, to me, yet another reason to turn a deaf ear towards them.

In operation, the ferries can be powered from the generators, or the batteries, which are kept topped up by the generators, and will be charged overnight, while the vessels are moored. Although the overnight charging will be carried out using mains electricity, it is hoped that energy from local wind, wave or solar systems will be used to charge the batteries as such facilities become available near the moorings.

Scottish build

Even more remarkable is the fact that the innovative project will also be undertaken on the Clyde – the ferries will be built by Ferguson Shipbuilders, which will be working along with Glasgow-based ship design specialists SeaTec, and electrical specialists Tec-Source. The project is supported by a Scottish government loan, with an additional funding of £450,000 provided from the European Regional Development Fund.

Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited is now part of the Ferguson Group, and is a shipyard located in Port Glasgow. Unfortunately,  it is currently notable as being the last remaining shipbuilder on the lower Clyde, and the only builder of merchant ships on the river, where it has long been a builder of RoRo ferries.

The contract is worth £22 million, and the media carried news of the first steel being cut on January 30, 2012s, with the first ferries of the ferries set to enter service in early 2013.

The 900 tonne ferries are designed t0 accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars, and for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.

Some background links to save you the effort of digging:

Hybrid Ferries Project | CMAL | Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.3MB)

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.9MB)

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

30/01/2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PS Comet bicentenary second newsletter

I’m guessing that most who are interested will have realised that 2012 marks the bicentenary of the:

Original PS Comet

Thurston's illustration, 1878

Thurston's illustration, 1878

The original PS (Paddle Steamer) Comet was constructed for Henry Bell in 1811, by John Wood, a Port Glasgow shipbuilder, and completed on January 18, 1812. The first passenger vessel built in Europe, PS Comet was a wooden vessel of some 30 tons, about 40 feet in length, and 10 feet in beam, and originally fitted with four paddle wheels, arranged as two on each side, driven by an engine rated at three horsepower. The two sets of twin paddle wheels were later replaced by single wheel on each side, and the length has been reported as having been extended by 20 feet to increase her capacity. Two engines were fitted to the vessel (not at the same time), but the changeover date is unknown – perhaps the change was carried out when the number of paddles was reduced, and the hull lengthened. The completed boat was put into service on a 24 mile route between Greenock and Glasgow, departing Greenock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, returning on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. A fare of four shillings (£0.20) was charged for the best cabin, and three shillings (£0.15) for second class. Although Bell was reported to have made heavy losses at the start of the venture, and some months passed before the craft was considered trustworthy by its passengers, it proved itself to be safe and secure transport on the route.

Replica Comet

Replica Comet on the Clyde

Replica Comet on the Clyde

The Provost of Greenock came up with the idea of building a model of the Comet to celebrate the forthcoming 150th anniversary of her inaugural sailing. Despite the fact that she was built in Port Glasgow, then a separate burgh, he felt the links with James Watt and Greenock were worth celebrating. There was much discussion as to the scale the model should be built to, and where it would be displayed, until Lord Lithgow suggested building a full sized replica. He canvassed support from other ship related businesses and offered the services of his own shipyard.

On Saturday, September 1, the replica Comet was launched from the same berth that the original boat was built on by Mrs Walter Lucas, and afloat in the fitting out basin to be finished off.

On Sunday, September 2, eleven invited dignitaries plus Lord Lithgow, all attired in period costume, and with two engineers as crew, assembled at the yard and boarded the Comet. The parade of floats arrived, and she cast off at 3.30 pm. Once out of the yard she was met by a large flotilla of canoes, sailing dinghies, yachts, and motor boats to escort her on her journey to Helensburgh. The boiler, fired by lignum vitae logs, worked well and the engine achieved the design speed of 5 knots.

The occasion was further remembered with the issue of a special commemorative envelope designed by John Brown, an art teacher at Greenock Academy.

The above summary comes from out slightly longer Wiki page: Secret Scotland – PS Comet


There have been a few sites popping up over the past couple of years, and these looked quite hopeful, especially those suggesting that the replica would be restored to steam ans be seen on the Clyde for the bicentenary. As far as I can see, those sites evaporated or went dormant, and were never updated after initial enthusiasm. They also seemed to be devoid of contacts, so I never mentioned them, or returned to them after a while.

That doesn’t include Comet Rebuilt though, which is well worth a visit, and provided the following clip (which is just one of many):

Another has been Helensburgh Heritage.

There have been two newsletters to date, with the most recent being issued in January 2012. You can read the details here (these are downloadable PDF files):

Comet 2012 Newsletter-1

Comet 2012 Newsletter-2

This confirmed that the replica would not be seen on the Clyde. Although it has recently been restored and returned to its site on display in Port Glasgow, the work carried out was not able to be extended to include restoration to full operation, but has ensured that the replica will be able to survive its exposed outdoor display for many years to come.

While many of the events are still to be finalised, a couple have been announced:

Friday 22 June 2012 will mark the start of the annual Comet Festival in Port Glasgow with a street parade and party. The following day the main event – the Gala Day with all sorts of activities – will take place in Coronation Park. Because 2012 is a special year, the Festival will run for longer than usual, with a variety of events taking place daily until Sunday 1 July – see our website for fuller details.

Saturday 4th August 2012 is when events will start in Helensburgh. These will include a visit to Helensburgh by a number of small steam boats. Where they will be on the day will be dependent on weather and (to a lesser extent) tides. These small vessels should prove to be an attractive feature on the day. It is also hoped that the Royal Navy will provide a ship of some sort.

The Comet Bicentenary Website

The final piece of news regarding events concerns the appearance of dedicated website, not yet populated, but promised to be coming along shortly, so keep checking:


Comet Archway for Helensburgh

I almost forgot to mention another benefit that the bicentenary appears to have spawned.

As the newsletter mentioned above notes, while Port Glasgow has the historic Comet replica on display, and Helensburgh has the Henry Bell obelisk to remember him by, and the flywheel from the PC Comet is displayed on the shore, there is not really anything in the town that makes an obvious link to the past events around the vessel(s).

This looks set to change in the not too distant future, as it has been revealed that plans are well underway to produce a steel archway as a permanent reminder to those past events surrounding the Comet, and is to be sited somewhere on, or near, Helensburgh Pier.

The main steel work for the memorial is to be carried out by the apprentices being trained by Babcock Marine at Faslane, while other services will be provided free of charge by those involved and supporting the project.

I really look forward to seeing this.

22/01/2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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