INCHGREEN chiefs insist the loss of a £5 million contract is not the end of the world and that the site is in the running for more lucrative work.

The Greenock dry dock is managed by Cammell Laird Shipbuilders in Merseyside - both of which are owned by Peel Ports - and its chief executive insists the facility is in the mix for bigger and better things.

John Syvret expressed disappointment that the Ministry of Defence contract for maintenance work on the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier went to Babcock in Rosyth.

But the influential shipyard boss believes there is a bigger prize at stake for Inchgreen.

Mr Syvret said: "Whilst we are obviously disappointed with the result of the first tendering process, it's important to recognise that this contract was only for the initial inspection work on the carrier hull, which will take around five weeks.

"The much more significant, 'through-life' refit contract for both carriers is yet to be tendered by the MoD and represents a far greater prize, with major, large-scale refit work continuing on both vessels over many years.

"We put an enormous amount of time, resource and effort into our tender, over 2,000 man hours, which placed the Inchgreen Dry Dock at its heart. "The fact that we made it to the final two bidders clearly underlines that we satisfied the very exacting standards set by the MoD, which is extremely encouraging when it comes to the next, far larger refit contract.

"Whilst we believe we were very close on this occasion, we will be taking up the MoD's offer of a full debrief to learn the lessons from this exercise to strengthen any future bid for the long-term refit contract, which would be centred around our facility at Inchgreen Dry Dock."

During a visit to Greenock in May last year, the Cammell Laird chief and Peel counterpart Mark Whitworth said hundreds of jobs would be created locally if the Royal Navy ship repair work bid is successful.

The pair met with Inverclyde councillors and members of the Save Inchgreen campaign group to stress their 'commitment' to the ongoing regeneration of the district.

Mr Syvret told how the the company has been 'working hard' on the carrier contract for many months and - as the largest mainland dry dock in the UK - Inchgreen is the 'best location' for the work.

Peel boss, Mr Whitworth, added that the Greenock site has the potential to become a 'major, viable centre for ship repair in Scotland' with potential to create 'hundreds of skilled shipyard jobs'.