GREENOCK'S Inchgreen Dry Dock is a £1 BILLION asset to Inverclyde that has 'bizarrely' been allowed to lie dormant for nearly two decades following a 'dereliction of duty' which led to it falling into private ownership, an MSP has declared.

Labour's Paul Sweeney - a member of a Holyrood committee which recently welcomed a petition demanding the dock be publicly owned again - accused Inchgreen's current owner, Peel Ports, of a 'conflict of interest' by picking its facilities on Merseyside over Greenock.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Mr Sweeney - who has considerable marine industry experience - pulled no punches in his criticism of how the dry dock has been treated as he set out his vision for how it could be brought back to vibrant life.

The Glasgow MSP challenged campaigners and politicians to come together and devise a long term strategy for unlocking the potential of the 'sleeping giant'.

And he hit out at the 'frustrating and continued fumbling of the ball' regarding the dry dock.

Mr Sweeney, who has called out Peel Ports for 'sacrificing' the Clyde in favour of its operations in Liverpool, says Inchgreen could be the hub for a cluster of engineering businesses focused on cruise ship refits and repairs.

Greenock Telegraph: Paul Sweeney MSPPaul Sweeney MSP (Image: NQ)

The MSP, who worked with BAE Systems in Govan and Scotstoun before turning to Holyrood, said: "We need a real industrial plan for the development of the Clyde and there's not really been any coherence to it for a long time.

"The big, glaring gap in all of this is some of these key industrial sites such as Inchgreen; with a rebuild value of the best part of £1 billion if you wanted to build that asset today, why are we sitting there with it not being utilised?

"There's clearly commercial demand to do it.

"There is a huge demand for cruise ship refit work in Europe and we could capitalise on that.

"This is a dock famous for fitting out the QE2, so it's capable of taking the biggest cruise ships in the world."

READ MORE: The Tele asks: 'Why has Inchgreen Dry Dock lain empty for nearly 20 years?'

Mr Sweeney said he was 'not particularly impressed' by what he felt was a 'weak proposal' from the dry dock's most recent leaseholders, the now-liquidated (Atlas) Marine Decommissioning Services.

The firm collapsed earlier this year after failing to bring any vessels to Inchgreen - or meet its target of providing up to 100 jobs at the site.

Greenock Telegraph: Inchgreen Dry DockInchgreen Dry Dock

He said: "We've got all these ships coming into Greenock, so why not try and get some repair industry out of it?

"It's just bizarre for me to see this asset not being used well.

"We shouldn't settle for just having the tourism, we should be developing an industrial base out of it as well and there are huge potential spin-offs from that.

"We need to zoom out and see the bigger picture, the bigger prize."

READ MORE: Demand for Inchgreen Dry Dock to be publicly owned welcomed by Holyrood committee

Mr Sweeney added: "There might be interesting plans afoot for Inchgreen but it's important we get the maximum benefit for the Scottish economy out of this asset, which was built originally with public money.

"It's a sleeping giant.

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"I can see the opportunity of it and it's frustrating for me to see this continued fumbling of the ball, so to speak, when we've got an opportunity to hit a winning goal very easily.

"No other country would have surrendered control of its ports in the way we have in Britain and it's been maddening to see how these great assets have been poorly maintained in the last few years.

"The Clyde is Scotland's greatest harbour yet it's a shadow of its former self in terms of its commercial port activities. That's a great tragedy.

"The recent story has been one of decline.

"Whilst there's some promising signs around the investment in Ocean Terminal, it's still not anywhere near the scale of what we've seen in Liverpool and that angers me as a proud Glaswegian and a proud west coast of Scotland advocate.

"I don't think we should be playing second fiddle to anyone.

"It was a gross dereliction of duty privatising the ports. I think we've now slowly come to realise that that was a critical strategic mistake.

"It certainly strikes me as a bit of a conflict of interest that the same entity is managing two competing ports and has clearly picked a winner, which is Liverpool.

"Peel haven't shown evidence that that is incorrect."

Greenock Telegraph: Inchgreen Dry DockInchgreen Dry Dock (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Sweeney added: "Too often we're just commentating on failure rather than dealing with the ambition and the strategy needed to succeed.

"I am impatient to just get on and deal with the issue rather than rake over the coals of what went wrong in the past.

"I'm an opposition member, I'm not in the government, I'm seeing the opportunity and I'd love to put these deals together but I'm not necessarily in the position to do that.

"I'm just urging everyone who's got power to use it to the best effect for the people of this country."