MORE than 20 potential bidders are in the mix for Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow, the Tele can reveal.

Administrators say they are buoyed by the response they have to their attempts to find a new commercial operator.

The Telegraph has learned that there have been 21 expressions of interest with less than a fortnight to go until the deadline to find a commercial buyer.

If a deal cannot be finalised then the business will be nationalised by the Scottish Government.

Ministers assumed control of Ferguson's last month in a deal with administrators Deloitte to keep the 300-strong workforce intact as they look for a way to complete the two unfinished £97m CalMac vessels which brought the yard to its knees.

The situation is similar to that of Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, famous for building the Titanic, which is also in administration and attracting attention.

A source told the Tele: "There's a lot of interest in Ferguson's, which is a positive.

"You would be inheriting a very modern yard.

"How many of them turn into concrete bids remains to be seen.

"Clearly when you get 21 expressions of interest there's also an interest in the marketplace.

"There's a lot of work available in terms of shipbuilding and companies are seeing this as a way of expanding.

"Similar interest has been expressed in Harland and Wolff.

"Strip everything out and it's about what's going to deliver the most number of jobs and long-term security for the yard."

A spokesman for Deloitte says they are hopeful about a deal.

He said: "As we noted at the time of our appointment as joint administrators, a key objective is to determine if a commercially-viable solution for the yard can be identified. "The joint administrators are undertaking a sale process and are actively engaged in discussions with a number of potentially interested parties, however it is early in the process and therefore it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this stage. "We have been encouraged by the level of interest in the yard so far, but would encourage any remaining parties who may have an interest to contact us."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Ministers remain committed to the completion of vessels, securing jobs, and working towards finding a solution to support future shipbuilding at the site.

"Deloitte, as administrator, is currently going through the process of market testing for a private buyer. "We will also start work to determine the optimal structure for the yard to ensure its long-term future.

"Our first priority is to establish a new delivery programme to ensure the completion of the CMAL ferry contracts."