SCOTLAND’s richest man Jim McColl has unveiled plans to restart the building of commercial ships on the Clyde.
The billionaire is said to have already run the rule over Inchgreen, a 1000ft-long dock in Greenock and one of the largest in Europe, just months after saving the Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow from bankruptcy.
Mr McColl told The Herald: “We are investing quite a bit in Ferguson to up our capacity. We are getting in the position to build four ships a year, six at a push.
“With the modifications we are making, we could make a vessel of 150 metres, even slightly bigger. That is the size of a ferry that would go from, say, Edinburgh to Zeebrugge, an ocean-going ship.
“Before we did this work, 100 metres was the maximum.”
“We are bidding a broader range of ships just now, not just ferries. We have been inundated with proposals for vessels we can make at Ferguson.”
The Carmunnock-born entrepreneur added that the Ferguson shipyard was getting requests that it would ‘probably need additional capacity for’.
He added that he was examining the viability of building military vessels and ocean-going commercial carriers, and not just the ferries that Ferguson has focused on in recent years.
Ships built by the Port Glasgow yard include the CalMac vessels MV Hallaig, MV Lochinvar and MV Isle of Lewis.
Mr McColl’s proposals come after BAE Systems confirmed it would be keeping on its Govan shipyard.
Inchgreen on the other hand has just been put up for a lease by owners Peel Ports, the group that also owns Hunterston and Clydeport.
Opened in the early Sixties, it was designed to repair huge ships, with the Queen Mary used as a sizing guide.
Mr McColl, who described Inchgreen as a ‘fantastic, fabulous facility’, added: “Nobody could afford to build a dry dock like that any more. It still has its heavy cranes but would need investment.”
The businessman is also keen on providing competition for defence contracts, insisting: “A bit of competition would not be bad for BAE Systems.”