An historic Clyde-built sailing vessel sits berthed in Honolulu, Hawaii, waiting patiently to return home to fulfil its new destiny as a community benefit project – and return to the high seas offering adventure, education and opportunities for marine conservation.

The former oil-driven bulk carrier was built in 1878 by Russell & Co at their Bay Shipyard in Port Glasgow before Glasgow merchants Wright & Breckenridge dispatched the 85-metre ship to service their India and Pakistan routes.

As the last iron-hulled four-masted sailing ship of her kind, after the loss of her nine sister vessels through war or shipwreck, the Falls of Clyde remains a key point of interest in Scotland’s shipbuilding history, as well as a site ripe for development that would restore her to, and perhaps surpass, her former glory.

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Falls of Clyde International (FOCI) are a Glasgow-based team working to return the elegant but well-worn boat to Scotland to convert her into a carbon-free education and working vessel that they envision could become a link to “forging strong ties between communities around the world”.

The not-for-profit group plan to offer opportunities to disadvantaged children and young adults to have an adventure of a lifetime and will be the first company in Scotland to offer carbon-free cargo transportation exporting Scottish goods and importing products back into the country.

With ocean plastic waste continuing to rise, the FOC plans to trawl the sea as she sails, collecting ghost nets and plastic waste and recycling them onshore. The ship will be multi-functional, carbon-free and, the team believe, is set to become an important social and historical landmark for Glasgow and Scotland.

Now, in the latest development of the 11-year campaign that has seen the boat threatened with dismantling and dashing the hopes of campaigners who had planned to see her back in her birthplace last year, FOCI have secured the backing of a major company who will help modernise the ship.

The ABB Marine & Ports will lead the main development of the ship as, making use of modern technology, as they take it from disrepair to a fully-functional sailing ship through the design and implementation of the engine and propulsion system – and bringing the dream of returning the 141-year-old vessel to her homeland ever closer.

Tim Munn, sales manager at ABB, explains “ABB Marine & Ports is delighted to be working with Falls of Clyde International in order to design and supply a power and propulsion system for the Falls of Clyde vessel.

“ABB Marine & Ports, Falls of Clyde international and partners will collaborate on innovative solutions in order to make the Falls of Clyde a showcase for what can be done with modern technology on historic vessels.”

Plans include the addition of battery storage, wind turbines, and hybrid power as well as the reinstatement of her significant sail power.

Hopes for the Falls of Clyde’s future voyages will be a far cry from her former life as a workhorse that saw her transporting cargo such as lumber, jute, cement, and wheat from ports in Australia, California, India, New Zealand, and the UK.

In 1899, Falls of Clyde was bought by Captain William Matson, a Swedish-born American shipping executive and the founder of Matson Navigation Company, taken to Honolulu, and registered under the Hawaiian flag.

After a considerable redesign, she made voyages that saw her carrying oil, sugar, cargo and passengers between Hawaii and California.

She soon developed a reputation as a hardy, fast, and reliable vessel.

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Designated a US National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Falls of Clyde is crumbling in harbour, neglect showing on her hull, deck and masts.

In 2008 The Bishop Museum, former owners of the vessel, announced plans to sink her, before FOCI stepped in.

But the latest development in the tale of repatriating the Scottish ship could signal her new life could now be imminent, after many years of uncertainty.

David O’Neill, founder and director of the project, said: “FOCI welcomes the positive approach received recently from the offshore renewables sector in Europe to play a substantial part in helping us to put out a request to global players to help design, build and install an emission free-storage and propulsion system for the former sail-powered oil tanker.”