Historic steamship the Waverley could sail again in 2020

Paul Semple, general manager of Waverley Excursions. Picture: John Devlin
Paul Semple, general manager of Waverley Excursions. Picture: John Devlin
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Plans to return the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer to full service have taken a major step forward after its owners placed an order for new boilers.

A “make or break” £2.3m fundraising appeal was launched last month to safeguard the future of the Waverley after the ship was withdrawn from service following the discovery of significant structural defects.

An investigation found that the inner casing of the boilers were damaged beyond repair, prompting the need for their wholesale replacement, a process the Waverley’s custodians likened to “open heart surgery.”

Amid fears the historic maritime asset may not set sail again, the appeal has received a steady influx of donations, including more than a quarter of a million pounds from the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS).

Today, Paul Semple, general manager of Waverley Excursions, confirmed it had placed an order for the ship’s new boilers at Cochrane Limited, an internationally renowned boiler specialist firm in Annan, with a view to securing the Waverley’s future for the next 20 years.

While those behind the appeal stressed the need for further donations, the order is seen as a significant step towards returning the steamship - a longstanding fixture on the waters of the Firth of Clyde - to full service.

Mr Semple said: “This is the first step in returning Waverley back to service, and we’ve only been able to take that first step because of the donations we’ve received so far.

“We’ve spent the last two months, since we announced Waverley’s withdrawal, planning the technical refit. By the nature of it, we have to start ordering the major components now, and that’s why we’ve therefore placed the orders for the new boilers.”

Mr Semple said that all being well, the Waverley would be fully restored and “rejuvenated,”ready to welcome passengers again by next summer.

“Other pieces of equipment will have to be ordered in the next few months, and this will then allow Waverley to go to a shipyard early in 2020 for what will likely be a four month refit to replace the various components and then get the ship back in steam and back in service for summer 2020,” he explained.

He also clarified that the £2.3m appeal target covered not only the cost of replacing the boilers, but included the need or a new electrical switchboard in the engine room, generators, and an oil and water separator.

The costs of the overhaul in the shipyard would be “significant” in terms of lifting the ship’s funnels off, he emphasised, with other expenses including insurance, pilotage and towage fees.

Mr Semple also thanked those people and organisations in Scotland, the rest of the UK, and further afield who had donated to the appeal, but stressed that much more money was required.

He added: “Those donations have allowed us to be in a position where we’ve placed the boilers order and paid the deposit, but we will require significantly more funds going forward to allow us to completely recommission Waverley for service in 2020.