Bid to bring 140-year-old Scots-built ship ‘home’ from Hawaii

The clock is ticking for campaigners trying to bring a historic ship moored in Hawaii back to Port Glasgow where it was built - as it will go under the hammer on Thursday.
The Falls of Clyde ship is currently moored in Hawaii. Picture: SWNSThe Falls of Clyde ship is currently moored in Hawaii. Picture: SWNS
The Falls of Clyde ship is currently moored in Hawaii. Picture: SWNS

The Falls of Clyde, which is moored in Honolulu Harbour, is the last remaining four-masted sailing vessel in the world, but due to its deteriorating condition has begun to leak.

It has been subject to a determined campaign to bring it ‘home’ to Port Glasgow, where it was built in 1878 by the Alexander Russell yard.

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Save The Falls of Clyde International had organised a shiplift to transfer it home to the Clyde in the hopes it could become a museum, but the deal fell through last month.

David O'Neill with the Falls of Clyde ship. Picture: SWNSDavid O'Neill with the Falls of Clyde ship. Picture: SWNS
David O'Neill with the Falls of Clyde ship. Picture: SWNS

Owned by the Hawaii-based Friends of the Falls of Clyde, the ship is on the USA’s National Historic Register.

However, the ship has been put up for auction by the Hawaiian State Department of Transport Harbours Division (HDOT), which says the boat’s condition threatens the safety of the harbour.

Sealed bids are due by 11am on February 28.

Those who wish to bid on the ship must post a bond of $1.5 million to cover the cost of removal of the vessel from Honolulu Harbour, an event that must take place within 60 days from the sale.

The winning bidder will be announced later on Thursday and if no bids are received the department may sell the ship by negotiation, scrap it or otherwise dispose of it.

Campaign leader David O’Neill said: “We met this week with Glasgow’s former Lord Provost Alex Mosson, he was very interested in our long-term plans.

“In particular, he was keen to hear our plans, produced by Strathclyde University on the hi-tech proposals for hydrogen propulsion, solar sails and battery storage systems.

“As a former shipyard worker he had a keen interest in the social and community benefits that this project can offer to many disadvantaged citizens of Glasgow.

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“The jobs and skills training proposals during the rebuild were of particular interest with Alex himself offering to coach others in plating skills.

“In these difficult times of austerity our project offers opportunities to many during the rebuild phase and beyond.

“We have started a GoFundMe campaign to help us raise funds to allow us to insure the vessel thus removing the ‘risk’ from the harbours department.

“If this legal challenge succeeds, this insurance offer could offer a solution to harbours but also gives us more time to pull together another lift operation.”

A public notice from harbour bosses said: “In early January 2019 the vessel began to list heavily to port.

“A hole was found on the port side, which began flooding the vessel. The hole was patched.

“Later in January, HDOT observed the vessel beginning to sink. Further inspection revealed the vessel taking on water. HDOT received an emergency procurement to pump the water from the vessel and make repairs. Multiple holes and cracks in the hull were patched.

“It is evident the vessel is deteriorating due to the lack of proper maintenance.

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“The condition of the vessel is at a critical point which jeopardises the vessel’s ability to stay afloat and threatens the safety of Honolulu Harbour.

“For more than a decade, HDOT has supported the Friends of Falls of Clyde and its supporters on numerous attempts to raise funding and repair the vessel, all of which have been unsuccessful.

“HDOT is moving forward with the auction proceedings, in part, to protect Honolulu Harbour.”