Ferguson Shipping’s update 12th September, 2017
John Morgan introduced himself as Business Development Manager of Ferguson Shipping. He had grown up on the Clyde in a family with a ship-building background.
The firm of Ferguson was founded by three brothers in 1903, working on a very constricted site adjacent both to Lamont’s yard and Newark Castle (which dates from the fifteenth century). Within this difficult area, Ferguson built a range of significant vessels, notably the Royal Research Ship Discovery 2, launched in 1929. The company also achieved a wartime output of thirty ships from a local workforce, which included many women. From 1961, however, the firm passed through a series of owners, entering receivership in 1991. In 2014, fortunately, the enterprise was re-launched as Ferguson Marine, after a major investment from Jim McColl of Clyde Blowers Capital.
Ferries were planned as a speciality, with innovative sources of propulsion, such as batteries, LPG and hydrogen. The design practices of the Ford Motor company (among others) provided a pattern of operation – one basic model that might be customised according to a client’s needs. (The new ‘Glen Sannox’ will be an example.)
Considerable trouble has been taken to build a new work-force of both sexes, together with a balanced age profile. Jim McColl has deserved much credit for his staff development, offering learning opportunities, in some cases, to recruits who were previously considered difficult and unpromising. In 2015/16 the number of apprentices rose from 15 to 35, 280 applications having been received for the year. In general, the company now has an excellent reputation for team work, training, enterprise and morale.
New approaches to construction make the most of available space and resources, human and material. All stages of the process are carefully phased through computer technology to achieve total precision. Work goes on for twenty four hours, ensuring an efficient production line. Each ship is built in ‘blocks’ which are finally assembled with maximum economy of time, materials and energy. By these means the company has made extremely good use of its opportunities despite the present lack of a dry dock. To address that constraint, it is hoped that in due course there may be additional capacity through expansion into the Inchgreen area.
John Morgan told a continuing and very hopeful story of industrial success, warmly appreciated by Probus members.