NEW operators have sailed into an historic Greenock harbour and pledged to invest £1.2 million and create 80 jobs.

Marina Projects Ltd has officially taken over the reins at James Watt Dock Marina and bosses have unveiled a bold vision for the site.

As part of the deal, the Hampshire-based developers will create 40 additional berths by the end of the year, taking the total to 164.

The company will also oversee the regeneration of the nearby Garvel Island, which will become a temporary base, before ultimately moving to the Great Harbour, which is earmarked for new offices, boatyard facilities, a chandlery and a cafe/bar in three years’ time.

Bosses plan to spend an initial £1.2m and create 80 jobs.

In an exclusive interview with the Tele, Geoff Phillips, executive chairman of Marina Projects, said: “We’ve been looking in on this project for many years and the opportunity arose.

“It’s been a keen competition to secure this project and we’re really excited.

“We’ve committed to invest in the order of £1.2 million over the next three years, that will happen.

“Beyond that, as we move onto the further marine trade centre opportunities on other parts of the site, that will form the driver for employment and I would suggest that we’re expecting to be employing somewhere in the order of 80-plus people on that site over the period.

“There will be a real positive impact for Inverclyde.”

The company officially took over the lease last week as bosses signed contracts with representatives of site owners James Watt Dock LLP, which is part owned by regeneration firm Riverside Inverclyde and the land and property arm of Clydeport operators Peel Group.

They replace outgoing Blue Sea Marinas, who have been in charge since JWD Marina was established by RI seven years ago.

Mr Phillips said: “The previous management company have done a great job and left the marina in very good shape.

“We have really exciting plans for the future development and, with the LLP, we’ve been working on some new planning consents initially with some more berths and within three years there will be some new administration offices that will incorporate a cafe/bar, bistro, marina offices, and a chandlery.

“That will all come forward over the next number of years and beyond that we’ll be focusing more on development of employment opportunities as the overall site develops and we’ll be matching that with our own further investment, so we’re very excited.

“It’s what Marina Projects is about, taking projects that have real prospects and developing those using our skills, knowledge and expertise in the industry to work with others.”

The company is behind the successful Whitehaven Marina in Cumbria and chiefs hope to replicate that in Greenock.

The existing nine members of staff at JWD Marina have transferred to the new operators.

Greenock councillor Jim Clocherty, who is also a dock LLP board member, said: “It’s an exciting project and an exciting time for Inverclyde.

“Marina Projects brings global expertise to Inverclyde and we look forward to the company applying its experience and knowledge in taking James Watt Dock marina to the next level.”

As part of the deal, the LLP will carry out improvements to the existing road and bridge infrastructure linking the marina with Garvel Island and the Great Harbour.

Fiona Maguire, board member and Riverside Inverclyde’s acting chief executive, said: “This is an exciting day for the marina and for James Watt Dock LLP as we launch into the next phase of this historic dock’s development. 

“Jeff Houlgrave and Geoff Phillips from Marina Projects share this excitement and, with the company’s business model and long term plans, this can be a catalyst for re-igniting the regeneration ambitions for this part of Inverclyde.”