AN ambitious bid has been launched to return an historic 1800s Port Glasgow ship to Inverclyde and turn it into a floating tourist attraction.

Campaigners want to bring the Falls of Clyde back 'home' after successfully saving it from the scrapheap last year.

The vessel was launched at Russell's Yard in the Port in 1878 but has latterly been berthed in Hawaii and fallen into disrepair.

It was feared it would be scrapped until campaigners from Falls of Clyde International brokered a deal with the Hawaiian authorities to take control of the ship and bring it back to Scotland.

David O'Neill, founder and director of the voluntary group, now wants to return the vessel near to its birthplace.

He believes there are many local sites, including Greenock's Victoria Harbour, that would be a perfect fit for the world's last sail-driven oil tanker.

His bid is being backed by Inverclyde councillor John Crowther and Port man Robert Buirds, who runs the Save Inchgreen Dry Dock campaign.

Mr O'Neill said: "I've been up and down the west coast looking at harbours but I'm always drawn here because she was built just up the road in Port Glasgow.

"We have the final go-ahead from the Hawaiian authorities after spending a year persuading them to speak to us.

"Plan A is to bring her to Victoria Harbour if we can get it. "We're not picky about the site but we want it to be in Inverclyde, it has to be."

Mr O'Neill has drawn up plans to turn the vessel into a floating museum, visitor and maritime training centre, which could boost employment and tourism locally.

He has a number of private backers and Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow have offered help.

But Mr O'Neill fears he may be forced to go elsewhere, with interest from North Ayrshire and Glasgow, because he claims there is a lack of support from Inverclyde Council, Riverside Inverclyde and Peel Ports, which owns Victoria Harbour and controls the majority of the area's coastline.

He said: "Official bodies are being constrictive yet they're not being asked to put their hand in their pocket.

"We're looking for marketing and media support to really drive the commercial side of the campaign faster."

David's plea is backed by Councillor Crowther.

Mr Crowther said: "They should be taking a far greater interest in it and working greater with the Falls of Clyde group.

"All we're looking for is an endorsement from RI, the council and Peel and if we can get that it's not just for the benefit of the group but for the whole of Inverclyde, the Clyde in general and its industrial heritage."

Mr Buirds, who wants to see a change in fortunes for Inchgreen, added: "Both campaigns complement each other.

"We're going to lose this opportunity if we don't do something."

Peel, RI and the local authority have all been asked for comment by the Tele.