Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (Cmal) has announced it intends to award the contract to the Cemre Marin Endustri AS shipyard in Turkey.
There will be a ten-day standstill period until the contract is signed and Cmal will confirm costs and delivery dates following this.
The new vessels will be deployed on the Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy routes and will be built to the same specification as the Islay ferries already under construction at the Turkish shipyard.
The existing fleet has suffered disruption because of faults, resulting in delays and cancelled services.
It is thought the contract to build the new fleet will speed up the replacement and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of routes.
Jim Anderson, Cmal’s director of vessels, said: “This is a big step forward is procuring two new vessels for the Little Minch routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert. These ferries will deliver dedicated services to North Uist and Harris in the peak season, rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place.
“We will now enter a ten-day standstill period before finalising the contract. We intend to share an updated in early January after the festive period with further information, such as forecasted delivery dates.”
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities, so I’m pleased to see Cmal name the preferred bidder for the two additional ferries.
“I hope this progress will be welcomed by island communities who depend on these life line ferry services.
“Our intention is that these vessels will be deployed on the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, creating the opportunity to significantly increase capacity and resilience by delivering dedicated services to communities during peak season.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats economy spokesman Willie Rennie said: “It looks like the contract for yet another two ferries is off to Turkey which is a stark reminder of the mismanagement of the ferry construction programme under the SNP.”
“Over budget and over time – that is the hallmark of the SNP and it is the islanders, the taxpayers and the shipyard workers that feel the pain.
“No wonder Scottish Government-owned Ferguson didn’t even bid for these two ferries. We need a recovery programme for Ferguson so that it is capable of winning future contracts.”