SHIPBUILDING has returned to Port Glasgow in a deal worth more than £20 million which will create more than 100 new jobs.
It was confirmed yesterday that Ferguson Shipbuilders have secured a Scottish Government-funded contract to build two new environmentally friendly 'hybrid' ferries.
The deal also secures around 75 existing jobs and will create 20 new apprenticeships at the Port yard over the next two years.
Under the huge contract, Ferguson's will build the world's first seagoing passenger and vehicle roll-on roll-off ferries, which will include a low carbon hybrid system of diesel and electric battery power.
Staff from Ferguson's met Scottish Government cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment Alex Neil yesterday as the contract was announced.
Mr Neil told the Telegraph: "This award is a perfect illustration of how we are making good on our commitment to create the vital jobs needed to boost local economies and crucially, to help stimulate growth across Scotland."
Guy Platten, of government-owned Port Glasgow-based Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) - who developed the detailed specification of the groundbreaking new ferries and placed the order - declared the deal as unique.
Mr Platten said: "This is a first in the world for this type of vessel.
"And looking at the replica of the Comet every day, you can see parallels between the two.
"CMAL is committed to leading the way in innovative ferry design and building for the future and we hope to see the first of these vessels in operation in early 2013."
Richard Deane, managing director of Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd, said that the announcement was important for the workforce and would have a 'major impact' on the Inverclyde economy.
He said: "The workforce and management have had to endure a difficult 18 months.
"But we are looking forward to brighter days ahead and more employment in Inverclyde."
Raymond Brown, senior production manager at Ferguson's, added: "This gives stability and is important for the yard, for the employees and for the surrounding area.
"It's also a great opportunity to bring in apprentices which is important for shipbuilding skills in Inverclyde."
Local politicians queued up to tell of their delight at the new contract.
The SNP's Stuart McMillan said: "The creation of apprenticeships is the icing on the cake for me and I'm sure that whoever obtains these positions will be grateful of the chance.
"Mixing the traditional Clydebuilt skills as well as newer green technologies shows that Port Glasgow can once again be at the vanguard of the shipbuilding industry.
"These world first vessels will prove to the world that commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde is not over but can be the start of something bigger.
"I grew up in Port Glasgow and my father worked in Ferguson's before passing away - I know what shipbuilding meant to him and I know what it means to the whole town.
"Portonians are proud of their history and legacy to the world and we know that we can still contribute to the shipbuilding world.
"Shipbuilding is returning home and I look forward to seeing the progress of these world-leading Clydebuilt vessels."
Labour's Duncan McNeil, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, said: "I am delighted to see ships being built on the lower Clyde once again and I congratulate the team at Ferguson's for beating other shipyards from across Europe for this important work.
"The shipyard has been able to sustain manufacturing and retain its skilled workforce through a difficult period by contracting for work on the aircraft carriers and other vessels.
"This ensured they were able to bid for this work and I wish the Dunnet family, managing director Richard Deane and the team at Ferguson's great success with this exciting new opportunity."
Port councillor Jim MacLeod said the news showed that the hard work of staff and management at Ferguson's had paid off.
He said: "This announcement is fantastic news for everyone associated with Ferguson's, Port Glasgow and Inverclyde."