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Entrepreneur seeking expansion

Tycoon McColl ‘looking to build bigger ships on Clyde’

Jim McCollSCOTTISH tycoon Jim McColl is looking at expanding shipbuilding operations on the Clyde in response to requests from potential buyers of bigger vessels than those built at his Ferguson yard.

Mr McColl has told a newspaper that Britain’s largest dry dock at Inchgreen in Greenock is an option and would enable the building of larger ferries that could ply routes to northern Europe.

The entrepreneur last year saved nearby Ferguson Marine, the last commercial shipbuilder on the Clyde which was close to collapse. He spoke earlier this year about spending £50m expanding the Port Glasgow facility and said at the time of the purchase in September that he wanted to treble the workforce.

Inchgreen has just been put on the market by its owner Peel Ports, parent group of Clydeport and may offer the immediate expansion he has in mind.

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. 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.But there are other requests we are getting we would probably need additional capacity for.

“We would be looking to expand if we could. Govan [which BAE Systems is retaining] would have been a good site to look at, if the yard had been vacant.

“We have looked at Inchgreen, the dry dock. It is a fantastic, fabulous facility, one of the biggest in Europe.”

Inchgreen is a 1,000 feet dock that was opened in the early 1960s. Mr McColl said he has looked at a short-term lease if Ferguson won orders for ships that were too big for its current yard to build.

The Inverclyde dock, was part of Scott Lithgow, the Greenock shipbuilding giant which also eventually owned Ferguson Marine.

Mr McColl believes there is no reason why the UK could not enjoy a renaissance in shipbuilding and is at a loss to understand why it allowed so much of its commercial shipbuilding sector to collapse while nations such as Germany, Romania and Turkey have remained competitive.

There is increasing demand for lower polluting ships and he believes this provides a market opportunity, not least in refitting existing vessels with greener technology.

He told Daily Business last year that the government needed to act as guarantor to enable British shipbuilders to compete effectively against overseas rivals.



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