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McColl launches bid to save shipyard and revive Clyde

JIM McColl, one of Scotland's richest men, has tabled a bid to rescue collapsed Clyde shipbuilder Ferguson and aims to return the yard to its former glory by creating hundreds of jobs.

REVIVING PLANS: Wealthy tycoon Jim McColl has pledged many millions to the Ferguson shipyard. Picture: Jamie Simpson
REVIVING PLANS: Wealthy tycoon Jim McColl has pledged many millions to the Ferguson shipyard. Picture: Jamie Simpson

The engineering tycoon, who saved about 550 jobs at Weir Pumps in Glasgow in 2007 by buying that business from Weir Group, is pledging to invest "many millions" of pounds in the yard at Port Glasgow if his offer is accepted by ­administrators. He said this would be required to bring it into the 21st century.

Ferguson, which was founded in 1902 and is the last commercial shipbuilder on the Clyde, collapsed into administration last week, with 70 of the remaining 77 employees made redundant.

Mr McColl, who has told the Scottish Government of his hopes of rescuing the yard, sees a bright future for Ferguson in building ferries and working on vessels for the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors.

The entrepreneur, who concluded he could rescue the Ferguson yard after visiting it in the wake of its fall into administration, said: "I thought there was something we could and should do here ... It is a leading name in the industry. It has got a rich heritage dating back [about] 110 years. We would be hoping to do a similar thing to what we did with the Weir Pumps business."

Asked about the number of jobs that might be created, Mr McColl replied: "I am sure that you would be looking at getting back up to levels which are certainly in the hundreds within a few years."

He added: "The Clyde is world-renowned for shipbuilding. That is a good brand. It is Clyde-built. I hope we get the opportunity to apply our skills to create the type of business that we would all be proud to have on the Clyde.

"You are going to have to get into investing many millions immediately in the site to bring it up to modern-day standards. I have been out to look at the site. We know exactly what we have to do ... We are going [in] with our eyes wide open here."

Mr McColl voiced hopes that the administrators would reach an early decision on a winning bidder, so the workforce could be re-built.

He highlighted the fact that companies within his Clyde Blowers empire already make a wide range of equipment for ships, including gearboxes for military vessels as well as pumps and generators. He noted companies within his group also did servicing work for oil industry drill ships, jack-up rigs and semi-submersible vessels, and added: "It may be possible to bring some of that work into the yard as well."

Mr McColl, who made pumps for ships at the Ferguson yard when he was an apprentice at Weir, said: "I think there is a great opportunity for marine engineering on the Clyde. As we know, it has been dying off and dying off. I see this as a great opportunity to revive commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde, or marine engineering more broadly."

Blair Nimmo and Tony Friar of accountancy firm KPMG, the joint administrators of Ferguson Shipbuilders, Newark Joiners and Ferguson-Ailsa, set a deadline of 5pm last night for offers. Sandy and James Easdale, Rangers directors and McGill's bus company owners, have also put in a bid.

A spokesman for KPMG last night declined to comment on the number of bids received. However, First Minister Alex Salmond said there was reason for "substantial encouragement" the yard could be saved.

Mr McColl said: "We have to win the bid and we are not there yet. I think, in terms of the impact we could have on developing that facility and creating opportunities for a future workforce, I think we must be one of the best placed. I don't know who the other bidders are. I can't imagine anyone who would be better placed than us to do that ... We would need to get in and get our sleeves rolled up and build something there."

The Ferguson business was under the ownership of the Dunnet family before it went into administration.

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