Jim McColl, the Scottish engineering billionaire who saved Ferguson Shipbuilders, the UK's last commercial shipyard, has now turned his eyes further westward from the small Port Glasgow yard on the lower Clyde to the massive Inchgreen Drydock in Greenock.
Glasgow's Herald newspaper reported that the businessman, keen to expand shipbuilding in Scotland, has taken purposeful interest in the 1960s-built facility, which is capable of holding massive ocean going ships and was used in the 1960s to fit out the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1968 as well as her predecessor the original and much larger, Queen Elizabeth in 1968.
Mr McColl told the newspaper that he had been inundated with enquiries about building larger ships at his Port Glasgow shipyard, which is currently undergoing an expansion to enable the firm to bid for much larger vessels than heretofore.
Moreover, there have been enquiries for ships too large to build even with the new expanded Fergusons facilities and to this end Mr McColl has looked at the site and foresees real potential for bringing back the construction of large ocean going ships on Clydeside along with activity at the smaller modernised yard.
SNP MSP for West Scotland Stuart McMillan welcomed news of plans
“Jim McColl’s announcement today is excellent news for the local area – and once again confirms that with the right support and investment, the local shipbuilding industry can go from strength to strength.
Other politicians also praised the initiative and local support for the plans is enthusiastic and strong.
The dock is used for the repair of large ocean going ships and Peel Ports, its present owner, have said that they want the facility to be used for industrial projects to create jobs in the area. The dock, at 1000 feet, is amongst the largest of its kind in Europe and is strategically vital for a maritime nation.
With this announcement following fast on the heels of the saving of Fergusons,and the retention of Govan shipyard as well as Scotstoun on the Clyde, then the future where four shipyards are dotted along the historic shipbuilding river looks less of a fantasy than it would have been only a few years ago, and much more of a sound economic reality and potentially brings with it not only direct shipyard jobs but further trades, skills and marine engineering and maritime business to the areas current and future supply chain industries.
The dock has travelling cranes of its own and would be an almost impossibly expensive facility to build from scratch, Mr McColl has suggested, but with modernisation to bring it up to German rivals' standards, the Clyde could once more see ocean giants being born on its banks at Inchgreen.