'I am deeply concerned on how we can cover operating costs this season': Fears for future of historic Paddle Steamer Waverley as daily fuel bill hits £7k

The operator of the famous Paddle Steamer Waverley has issued a warning about its long-term viability without more support, saying it otherwise faces a “serious financial crisis” amid higher fuel costs that are now averaging more than £7,000 a day.

The vessel – billed as “the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer” – cast off from Glasgow this morning for her first trip “Doon the Watter” in a milestone year, set to within weeks celebrate the 75th anniversary of her maiden voyage.

This summer she will leave her home waters on the Firth of Clyde for the first time since before the pandemic. In June she will return to Oban and Skye offering trips around the Inner Hebrides, and in August will head to English and Welsh waters with London her ultimate destination.

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Paul Semple, general manager of operator Waverley Excursions – which is run on a not-for-profit basis – said it is “fantastic” to see the first passengers step aboard as a new season begins – after “endless hours of hard toil” by volunteers and crew over the winter.

However, he is “deeply concerned” about how operating costs can be covered this season, given the current fuel price. "Now Waverley is sailing daily I am faced with the stark reality of buying fuel at a cost which has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2021,” he added.

A £2.3 million boiler refit took place in 2020 following a major fundraising appeal, but Mr Semple noted that the paddle steamer burns fuel at a rate of more than £11 per minute, an average daily bill that tops £7,000.

"We have, very reluctantly, introduced a modest fuel surcharge of £3 to go a little way towards keeping the paddles turning,” he added, stressing his determination that “as many people as possible will step aboard to enjoy the unique experience” of sailing on the vessel.

'Now Waverley is sailing daily I am faced with the stark reality of buying fuel at a cost which has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2021,' says Waverley Excursions boss Paul Semple. Picture: contributed.

"For Waverley to survive we need the next generation to sail and work on her. She also needs the continued support of the general public in the coming months, or we will face a serious financial crisis that will put her continued operation at risk.”

Waverley was built in Glasgow, entered service on June 16,1947, and was restored to her original 1940s style following a £7m Heritage Rebuild in 2003.


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