SECRET plans have been drawn up to berth a dozen cruise ships at Greenock and bring potentially thousands of crew members ashore.

The intention is to disembark crews - of up to 500 people from each vessel - for 'onward travel to transport hubs' and repatriation to their home countries amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Telegraph understands.

But concern has been expressed about the proposed arrangements, which are set to be debated and voted on by a council committee in private this afternoon.

Peel Ports — owners of Ocean Terminal — have applied for permission to dock 12 vessels here for 'lay-up' in the wake of the collapse of the cruise industry due to the pandemic.

An Inverclyde Council report on the matter has been withheld from public view, but the Telegraph has learned details of the plan through its sources.

One insider told us that the local authority has powers to refuse permission for crews to come ashore but none to prevent the ships berthing at or mooring off Greenock.

The source said: "We could end up with a stand-off situation with a dozen big ships at Greenock."

Members of the council's policy and resources executive sub-committee are to meet at 3pm today to discuss the Peel Ports proposal to provide 'temporary safe anchorages' for the huge vessels.

Our source said: "This has been put forward when the latest figures show the coronavirus death rate in Inverclyde is three-times higher than the national average.

"The plan is to disembark crews of up to 500 from each vessel — that's potentially 6,000 people — for onward travel to transport hubs, including Glasgow Airport.

"But it's unclear how this would happen.

"The question is, would be people be left to their own devices to get to a transport hub, or will they be taken there?

"That detail is just not there.

The insider added: "This will become a big issue if the council says no. It has the power to stop crews disembarking.

"But the power to stop the ships berthing lies with the Scottish Government.

"From a humanitarian point of view, people deserve to go home but that has to be done safely."

A separate source said there were 'obvious issues' regarding the matter.

The source said: "There have been issues around COVID-19 and cruise ships already.

"There are issues around whether Peel Ports can do this, or if the government has the power to prevent it.

"I think Inverclyde Council will have concerns about it, otherwise there'd be no report coming to the committee.

"These cruise ships, whether they have skeleton crews or full crews at present, it will still be significant numbers of people.

"It's not ideal."

The council committee members who will vote on the matter are Stephen McCabe, the convener, Jim Clocherty, vice convener, Ronnie Ahlfeld, Chris McEleny, Elizabeth Robertson and David Wilson.

A Peel Ports spokesperson said: "Due to the travel disruption associated with COVID-19, cruise companies have enquired about safe and temporary anchorages for vessels not in operation.

"These vessels have minimal crew and no passengers on board.

"Similarly to the east coast, where four cruise ships are at anchor, we continue to offer and provide safe anchorages for vessels on the Clyde.

"We would never make agreements that jeopardise the health and safety of staff, residents or local communities and remain fully compliant with guidance issued by health and maritime authorities at all times."

It is not known how much Peel would charge cruise lines for providing lay-up facilities at Greenock.

A council spokesman said: "The council has received an approach about a proposal for the temporary lay-up of cruise ships.

"After seeking views from a range of national partners a report will be examined by the policy and resources executive sub-committee today.

"This report contains commercially confidential information and it would not be appropriate for the council to discuss any part of the proposal that potentially breached this at this time."