A COUNCILLOR calling for a full Comet care collaboration to protect the maritime legacy of the little paddle steamer wants to bring the original ship's engine home to Port Glasgow.

Chris Curley made the suggestion whilst advocating a heritage centre be built around a new copy of Henry Bell's iconic 1812 vessel to replace the current replica which has been left to rot.

Councillor Curley appears poised to argue against an option mooted by local authority officials to build a 'weatherproof' Comet to be displayed in the open air as the current crumbling replica is.

But he also wants to see the engine of Europe's first commercially successful passenger steamboat — currently housed in the Science Museum in London — on display in Inverclyde.

Councillor Curley said: "A new Comet replica could and should be part of wider investment in the heritage of Port Glasgow.

"I think we should think big.

"I think a maritime heritage centre should be our target, looking at bringing in other things as well.

"Her original engine was donated to the Science Museum in 1862, and I think that's another option for us.

"We need to look on a wider scale about how we tell the story of the Comet. Could we not make a bid to bring the original engine back to Port Glasgow?"

Port councillor Mr Curley spoke after Inverclyde Council's environment and regeneration director, Scott Allan, told a committee meeting that a new outdoor option would be actively explored.

Mr Allan said: "The early advice that we're getting from industry experts is that it is possible to create a vessel that is fully weatherproof that could be displayed outside.

"This is something that would have to be costed and looked at in detail.

"If members are minded, that is the way that officers would recommend that this project is taken forward."

A publicly funded £5,000 naval architect report into the appalling state of the current Comet replica says any attempt to repair her would be 'pointless'.

The document recommends a new vessel — with an estimated cost of between £250,000 and £750,000 — be built and housed in a climate controlled building.

Councillor Curley said the report made 'grim reading', but added: "I do see this as a wake-up call and a challenge to us as a community."

Fellow Port councillor Drew McKenzie said: "There is a lot of affection for the Comet.

"There's a lot of good suggestions coming from a lot of good people that are interested in ships."

Council officers are to work with the Port Glasgow Regeneration Forum to come up with a list of options.

Mr Allan is also to report back to a further meeting on the costs of moving the current Comet which now cuts a pathetic sight in her prominent position in the town centre.

Councillor McKenzie said: "The Comet is in a very sad looking state.

"There is an argument that it should be removed permanently at the earliest opportunity, rather than sit there actually as an embarrassment to the town."

Councillor Curley said: "I very much agree with that, I think we need to do something now to save what we can of the Comet."