THE First Minister launched the UK's first passenger ferry powered by natural gas on the Clyde.

The 102-metre, roll-on/roll-off vehicle passenger ferry, named MV Glen Sannox, can operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and marine gas oil (MGO).

A government spokesman said LNG is significantly cleaner and will help to reduce emissions to meet clean air targets.

The innovative dual fuel vessel was launched at Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited’s (FMEL) Port Glasgow shipyard and is the first of two LNG ferries being built as part of a £97 million contract on behalf of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).

MV Glen Sannox is designed to carry 127 cars or 16 HGVs or a combination of both and up to 1,000 passengers.

It is due to go in to service in winter next year.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd makes a significant contribution to the Scottish industrial sector and to the Inverclyde economy.

“These state of the art ferries are more sustainable, therefore contributing to Scotland’s world-leading climate change goals. They are also capable of carrying more vehicles and benefiting the communities that rely on them.”

Jim McColl, chief executive, Clyde Blowers, which owns FMEL, said: “The successful launch of the MV Glen Sannox marks an important milestone in Ferguson Marine’s journey to becoming a world-class shipyard. As this is the first ferry in the UK capable of being run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and marine gas oil, not only has this been an extremely exciting and ambitious project for both FMEL and CMAL, but it has been an extremely complex one as well.

“FMEL and CMAL have worked closely together on the highly challenging engineering issues arising from the unique nature of the dual fuel ferry project. The experience and knowledge gained during this project will be of enormous benefit to the competitiveness of Scottish shipbuilding in the future as technology continues to develop to meet tightening clean energy legislation.”

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of CMAL said: “We welcome the launch of Glen Sannox, marking a major milestone in the construction of this highly innovative vessel. The use of LNG in maritime transport is a sign of our ongoing commitment to exploring new fuel technologies for ferries, as well as a wider commitment to innovation in Scotland and consideration for the environmental impact of transport.”