CRUISE ships could still dock in Greenock as the coronavirus emergency which has left Inverclyde the worst affected area in Scotland eases.

Harbour operator Peel Ports has informed the council it would be illegal under international law to deny a ship entry if it has a certificate of health.

The information was not provided last month when Peel had intimated that up to 12 ships could disembark crew at Greenock as the Covid-19 crisis was at its peak.

NHS chiefs and local politicians were united in their opposition to the move on public health grounds and because it would put additional pressures on already stretched services.

The Tele can now reveal that following Inverclyde Council's rejection of the proposal, Peel bosses held a second teleconference meeting with local authority officials and stated their 'support and sympathy' for the district's plight.

In a report, the council's corporate director for environment, regeneration and resources, Scott Allan, said: "They [Peel] emphasised that they are committed to protecting the Inverclyde community as well as their own employees and the crews of ships.

"They clarified that under international law, they cannot refuse entry to the port by a cruise ship if it is declared free from disease.

"The Clyde is an attractive location for ships in view of the wide range of facilities including engineering maintenance."

One cruise vessel, Azamara Pursuit, pictured, bypassed Greenock as it arrived on the Clyde earlier this week.

It is currently laid up at the King George V Dock in Glasgow.

It is anticipated that a further two vessels will arrive shortly but Peel has stated that there are no active plans currently to bring any ships Greenock.

The council's Mr Allan said: "Significantly, British ports cannot deny access to any vessel which has a valid certificate of health.

"Peel Ports committed to advising the council immediately if there is a specific proposal by a cruise ship operator to bring a vessel to Greenock.

"This would ensure that matters of health and safety, including the role of Inverclyde Council in partnership with the health board as port health authority, are addressed at the earliest opportunity."