Waverley paddle steamer’s return to Clyde cruising delayed by crew shortage

The long-awaited return of historic paddle steamer Waverley to Clyde cruises has been delayed by a crew shortage.

The world’s last sea-going paddle vessel had been due to resume sailings from Glasgow today but they have had to be postponed until next week.

Waverley Excursions, which operates the 74-year-old ship, said it had been hit by a lack of staff which was affecting the whole maritime sector.

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It now plans to launch the steamer’s summer programme on Tuesday with trips to Loch Long and Loch Goil.

Waverley returning to Glasgow in May after her bows repair. Picture: Waverley Excursions

Cancelled excursions included to Rothesay, Tighnabruaich and Millport.

The delay comes as another setback for the ship, whose 2020 season was reduced to just two weeks because of Covid restrictions and a collision with Brodick pier on Arran in September, in which 24 passengers and crew were injured.

Its operator will be desperate to recoup lost revenue after Waverley was also laid up for the whole of 2019 for boiler replacement work.

However, distancing restrictions means the ship can carry only 35 per cent of her normal passengers.

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Waverley Excursions general manager Paul Semple told The Scotsman: “We have pushed back the start until next Tuesday.

“This is due to crew availability, and in particular catering, deck and engine room ratings.

"Across the industry, there is a shortage of crew.”

Mr Semple said it was due to several factors, including Brexit.

He said: “There are fewer eastern European crew available who can work in the UK, but there is also a shortage of British seafarers.

"With Waverley being seasonal, she can be attractive to some seafarers but others prefer a regular on/off work pattern, such as will be available with ferry operators.”

However, Mr Semple described cruise bookings as “strong”, with more than 4,500 tickets sold over the last two weeks.

He said: “One-off sailings to Campbeltown and Ardrishaig have proven popular and may be the first to sell out at the reduced capacity.”

Preparations for the ship’s return to service have continued since she arrived back at her home beside Glasgow Science Centre last month following the completion of repairs to her bow which was damaged in the Brodick collision.

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