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16 February 2016, 15:19 | Updated: 16 February 2016, 17:37
The formal start of construction of two new ferries on the Clyde has been marked.
The 100-metre vessels are being built at the Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) shipyard in Port Glasgow for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay started the computer-guided laser to cut the ceremonial first steel for the ships, currently known as Hull 801 and Hull 802.
Ferguson, which was taken over by Clyde Blowers businessman Jim McColl in 2014, won the contract for the work and the #97 million deal was signed in October last year, securing around 150 existing jobs in the area.
The company will undertake the design and construction of the new dual-fuel ferries as well as their testing, equipping, launching and delivery.
The new vessels will join the fleet, owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), with the first ferry expected to be delivered in May 2018 and the second a few months later.
Mr Mackay said: "I'm delighted to help cut the first steel for these new ferries, marking the start of construction on this massive project that has brought large shipbuilding back to the Clyde.
"The Scottish Government is committed to creating the vital jobs needed to boost local economies and help stimulate growth across Scotland. This £97m contract means FMEL can retain its 150-strong workforce, as well as take on more staff and apprentices.
"The ferries themselves will be welcome additions to the Clyde and Hebrides network, helping the Scottish Government to continue to provide safe and reliable services for the communities that depend on them.''
Liam Campbell, FMEL managing director, said cutting the first steel signified an "important milestone'' for the yard and will allow the workforce to steadily grow over the next years.
"Our new facility will provide highly efficient state-of-the-art shipbuilding and fabrication services to customers in all sectors.
"We look forward to working closely with CMAL and CalMac on this project to ensure world-class vessels for a world-class owner and operator.''
Erik Ostergaard, chairman of CMAL, said: "Hulls 801 and 802 will become the latest vessels in our fleet and strengthen our commitment to using cutting edge technology and design to create sustainable and reliable ferries and we look forward to the first of these vessels going into service in 2018.
"This construction project is the latest step in our ambitious fleet renewal plans to ensure our ferries continue to meet the needs of the communities we serve.''