A campaign is to be launched to save the first car ferry built specifically for the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay route from being broken up for scrap.
A group of enthusiasts wants to save MV Saturn - the last of the three pioneering ‘streakers’ introduced on the upper Clyde in the 1970s - from following her older sisters Jupiter and Juno to the scrapheap.
The ferry, which was capable of carrying 530 passengers and 40 cars, has been in ‘cold lay-up’ at Rosneath in the Gare Loch since late 2011.
Her charter to Scottish operators Caledonian MacBrayne expired earlier this year, and the vessel has since been returned to owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited.
David Elwood, spokesperson for the enthusiasts, said: “She needs some tender loving care, but is still a young, viable ship and an asset of regional heritage - there was a lot of love for her sister vessels too.
“Unfortunately in the time she’s been left at Rosneath her passenger certificates have expired and she now needs dry docking and a new place of berth if she’s to survive.
“The deadline is rather imminent and all lines of inquiries unfortunately grind to a halt over Christmas, so effectively we will only have weeks, not months, to try and save her.”
Bute Community Council has already written to CMAL asking if artefacts from the ship can be saved in the event of her being sent for scrap, but has yet to receive a response.
MV Saturn, built at the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company’s yard in Troon, entered service on the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay route in February 1978, initially with the legend ‘Rothesay Ferry’ on her hull.
From the mid-1980s she was used interchangeably with the Juno and Jupiter, and later MV Pioneer, on the Rothesay and Dunoon routes, and from 2005 she also saw service between Ardrossan and Brodick as a back-up vessel during the peak summer period.
MV Juno was scrapped on the beach at Rosneath in the early summer of 2011, while MV Jupiter met the same fate in Denmark later that year.