A CALL has been made for Inchgreen Dry Dock to be transformed into a shipyard to build the new ferries needed to replace ageing fleets.

Campaigners say there is a gap in the market for the site to be used to construct boats for the likes of Gourock-based Caledonian MacBrayne, which is crying out for modern vessels.

Ex-shipyard worker, Robert Buirds, who launched the Save Inchgreen group in December 2017, believes plans by owners Peel Ports to make the dry dock a hub for Royal Navy aircraft carrier repairs and maintenance were never likely to come to fruition because of the scale of investment that needed to bring the Greenock facility up to scratch and the availability of fully operational sites elsewhere in the UK.

Mr Buirds said: "I never for a moment believed a word about it when there are already facilities up and running for the MoD so it wouldn't make sense to have to invest heavily in a site like Inchgreen to be used only every four or five years for refit.

"The campaign is now driven towards turning the dry dock into a shipyard, not just for ship repair and marginal work.

"There's a boom in shipbuilding and order books in Germany, France and elsewhere are quite substantial while we've killed off all but all of our shipbuilding companies.

"The last one standing is Ferguson's.

"We have a ferry fleet that needs modernised.

"They're crying out for that now.

"Operators are feeling pressure from insurance companies, they don't want to ensure the rust buckets they currently have.

"There's a big demand."

Inverclyde Council, in partnership with Peel, have gained initial approval to create a £9.4 million marine training and manufacturing facility in and around Inchgreen, although not including the dry dock itself.

Mr Buirds says the project could be a real shot in the arm for the area but has urged the powers that be to ensure the largest mainland dock of its kind in the UK is not left behind.

It comes as he revealed the Inchgreen campaign, which gained over 3,500 petition signatures and national media attention, has gone global.

He said: "We've had contact from a lot of different people, folk from America, Canada, Australia.

"They tend to be those who moved away from Inverclyde and emigrated who are encouraging us to keep going because they remember when they used to work in the yards here and when they closed down they had to move away so they see the benefit of local employment.

"There's opportunities for the new market and the old market.

"We will keep the pressure on."

The campaign committee would like to thank the local branches of Unite, Unison and EIS trade unions, Ferguson Marine and individuals for their support.

To keep up-to-date, visit www.facebook.com/campaigntosaveinchgreendrydock