THE building of a complete ship returned to Birkenhead for the first time in nearly 20 years with the keel-laying of the first of two new ferries.
Cammell Laird formally began building the new vessel for Scottish operator Western Ferries last week.
The ceremonial laying of the keel number 1387 for m/v Sound Of Seil was overseen by Western Ferries chairman Alistair Ross in Cammell Laird’s vast construction hall.
Next month construction will start alongside Sound Of Seil on her sister ship Sound Of Soay for the multi-million pound contract.
It is planned to launch both ships in the traditional manner down a slipway and deliver them to Western Ferries late next summer.
The ferries will sail on the company’s Gourock-Dunoon strategic service between the Scottish mainland and Isle of Bute and the Scottish west coast.
They are the first complete ships to be built at Laird’s since the sub HMS Unicorn in 1993, although it is building the flight deck and hangars of the Royal Navy’s new carrier Queen Elizabeth.
Mr Ross said: “It is fantastic to be here at Cammell Laird and see work begin on the first ferry.
“In terms of the environment, the ferries will be at the cutting edge of the latest engine technology, thereby reducing fuel usage and emissions.”
Cammell Laird managing director Linton Roberts said the company could not wait “to get cracking” on the work.
He added: “Cammell Laird was exceptionally pleased and proud to welcome the team from Western Ferries for this historic keel-laying ceremony.
“We fully appreciate the importance of this investment in state of the art vessels for the company and its ambitions.”
Chief executive John Syvret said: “The contract again reinforces Cammell Laird’s status as one of the most competitive shipyards in Europe.”