FERGUSON Marine is set to deliver another big jobs boost - with up to 60 roles being created as the company closes in on three new contracts.

Shipyard bosses expect to take on the additional staff by the end of this year as part of the ongoing rebirth of the Port Glasgow company.

They are also hopeful of bolstering the order books with several deals almost over the line.

Chief executive Gerry Marshall said: "I can't say what they are because of the customers involved, it would be unfair on them until everything is signed.

"But we're working very closely on three contracts just now.

"I won't like to put a timescale on them but we've advanced significantly towards a few contracts and we're very close to securing them."

Extra work means more staff and yard chiefs expect the current workforce of around 360 to jump by a minimum of 60 before 2018 is out.

Mr Marshall, who has been in post for 18 months, said: "We'll be up at 420, maybe even above that by the end of the year.

"We've got a great yard and we've invested immensely in this yard - almost £25 million - cementing this yard and infrastructure.

"We've invested in our people and hired a lot of people and trying to pull that resource from the local area.

"We're looking to continue to grow."

Work is continuing on two new dual-fuel ferries, including the delayed MV Glen Sannox, as part of a £97m Scottish Government contract.

Ferguson's bosses admit there have been 'challenges' because they are 'prototype' vessels - the first of their kind to be constructed in the UK - but vowed that they will be delivered and to a similar high standard like MV Catriona, which was launched in 2015.

John Morgan, the company's business development chief, said: "We were looking at the Catriona launch video the other day, the old building was still here, we were already taking down a part of another building and starting to clear stuff away and that's the ferry we were told is one of the best ever received.

"But it was done while we were decimating the yard and I think that's what people have to remember.

"Over the three years we have completely removed a not-fit-for-purpose yard and built one that is world-class at the same time as building these ferries, so there's a lot of things that push in different directions and it's not been easy."