AN AMBITIOUS plan to bring an iconic vessel back to Inverclyde is now turning the tide.

Falls of Clyde International (FOCI) - the organisation campaigning to transport Port Glasgow-built Falls of Clyde home - has secured substantial investment from a major offshore energy company.

The money will fund the design and implementation of an emission-free propulsion and energy storage system which will bring the ship back to the River Clyde.

Once Falls of Clyde has been shored up, the campaign group hopes to build a quayside village around her, offer business services to entrepreneurs on board, and give disadvantaged young people a chance to learn practical skills while sailing the world.

The FOCI team is now inviting companies to submit proposals for the design of the engine system.

David O’Neill, founder and director of the project, says the ship continues to be a valuable link to Scotland and Inverclyde's nautical past.

He said: "Falls of Clyde will be multi-functional and carbon-free and is set to become an important social and historical landmark for Scotland, forging strong ties between communities around the world.

"We welcome the positive approach from the offshore renewables sector in Europe to help design, build and install an emission-free storage and propulsion system for the former sail powered oil tanker.

"Once we have received all of the proposals, we will look at them and decide which one best fits our criteria and represents the message that we want to send."

Built by Russell & Co at Bay Shipyard in Port Glasgow in 1878, Falls of Clyde was a bulk carrier bought by Glasgow merchants Wright & Breckenridge to service their India and Pakistan routes.

The vessel, currently moored in Honolulu in Hawaii, remains the only surviving Clyde-built, four-masted tall ship that is still afloat.

FOCI will be offering designers and naval architects the chance to design the interior of the vessel.

The successful company will take on the task of modernising Falls of Clyde and transforming her into a self-sustaining, fully-rigged, 'technology and training platform and expedition ship'.

The vision for the development includes cabins, public rooms, training suites and a lab.

Campaigners also plan to offer young people the chance to sail around the world - as customers and students.

Proceeds from that business idea will be used to provide training opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters aged 15 to 19.

Young people will have to demonstrate that they have volunteered in the Inverclyde community before being selected to train on board and gain qualifications.

David, pictured, added: "This is a fantastic opportunity for Inverclyde and presents the chance of a lifetime for young people.

"The rebuild of the ship will take around three years and in the second year of the build, we will start to recruit for the sailings.

"We want to get young people in Inverclyde who are disadvantaged and disengaged involved, and give them the chance to sail across northern Europe, the Mediterranean rim, across the Atlantic, and globally.

"Not many kids will get the opportunity to do something like this.

"It's about helping kids who have potential but they're not getting the opportunity."

The next stages of development are dependent upon funding and planning permission.

David is hopeful that the campaign will continue to make waves and get businesses interested.

He added: "We agreed at the start of the project that we weren't going to ask for public funding and would do it commercially.

"We've had help from Scottish Development International and there will be fantastic opportunities for Inverclyde businesses to get involved as things progress.

"Jobs will be created in the rebuild and we're planning rebuilds of more vessels.

"Falls of Clyde will bring together clean technology and heritage.

"There are great benefits for local communities and the whole project is giving people hope and inspiration."