A RETIRED marine engineer has thrown a lifeline for the crumbling Comet landmark.

John McAndrew, 83, who served his time at British Polar Engines in Govan, also worked in most yards in Inverclyde including his career - including Scotts and Ferguson's - and says he is willing to repair her seized-up engine free of charge.

John was dismayed to hear about the current problems with the Comet replica, which experts says would cost £750,000 to replace after a decade of neglect left her in a sorry state.

A survey says the machinery could be placed into another ship - and John wants to play his part in the rescue effort.

He said: "I feel it is sad considering all the work and money raised to refurbish it 10 years back.

"I am happy to provide supervision to apprentices to repair the engines free of charge.

"It should be saved for posterity."

The Comet, an exact replica of Henry Bell's 1812 original, is now in a very bad state of repair and the engines have seized.

John said: "If it had been kept in the water it would have lasted a lot longer.

"It was launched in 1962 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Comet's maiden voyage and the full-size replica sailed from Port Glasgow to Helensburgh and back.

"There are various ways to 'unseize' the gear.

"It would have to be stripped down, the cylinder head taken off and chemicals could be used and heat could be applied.

"I have been involved with a number of other ships for many years."

Naval Architects I K Macleod & Associates carried out a thorough inspection of the Comet replica and say that a brand new replica hull is now required

The survey report states: "The existing replica is beyond repair, it should be possible to remove the machinery and fit it to a new replica vessel.

"Any new replica vessel should be stored in a climate controlled building."

John and like-minded engineers have already worked on The Maid of the Loch, the Glenlee, built in Port Glasgow and now at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, and the Lyttelton steam tug which is sailing around Lyttelton Harbour in the south island of New Zealand.

Two shipyards have provided estimates for the cost of replacing Comet, ranging between £250,000 and £750,000

The council has not revealed the name of the two yards involved in the estimates, citing commercial confidentiality.

Officials have proposed that the council works with the Port Glasgow Regeneration Forum to 'explore cost options' and report back to councillors early next year.