The operators of the historic Waverley paddle steamer have promised to bring the famous ship back to Helensburgh – if sufficient repairs to the pier are carried out.

But the vice-chair of Argyll and Bute’s harbour board says there is no easy solution to the problems with the Burgh facility – as it is not a working pier.

The pier has been closed to marine traffic since October, on the advice of consultants Arch Henderson, after the deteriorating condition of the structure prompted safety concerns.

Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL), which operates the iconic vessel, unveiled their May bank holiday sailing schedule last month – with no stops in Helensburgh, and instead two visits to Kilcreggan, during the ship’s five-day cruising programme on the Clyde.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier closed to marine traffic on safety grounds

WEL has yet to publish details of its main Clyde summer cruising programme, which usually runs from late June until the end of August.

A verbal report on the progress of renovation work at Helensburgh pier is due to be delivered to the harbour board on Thursday, March 7.

The document also states that discussions have taken place with the Helensburgh Seafront Development Project (HSDP) on a possible “sheltered step-ashore facility” at Helensburgh.

The council stated in December that it was holding talks with HSDP and Waverley Excursions about the future of the pier.

It also said that specialist contractor Evova was testing the timber section of the pier.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier report 'to be published in new year'

Councillor Ellen Morton, chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond area committee and vice-chair of the harbour board, said: “The stone structure is sound and the whole pier area is safe apart from the fenced off part.

“But work does need to be done. However, there is no funding identified in the piers and harbours budget. Officers are in discussions with HSDP.

“One issue is that Helensburgh pier is not a working pier. Nobody other than the Waverley uses it – we make a donation to them and we don’t charge them pier dues.

“Most piers in Argyll and Bute are working piers, such as Dunoon, Kilcreggan and Rothesay.

“There is no point pretending there is not an issue. With the type of vessel the Waverley is, she causes a very heavy wash against the old wooden structure, and that is what is causing it.

“It is important for a number of reasons that the Waverley comes to Helensburgh. It is a tradition, and people value traditions.

“It is also a signal that Helensburgh is open for business. There are benefits to local shops, as some people, when they get off the boat, will go for a coffee or walk round the town.

“But given the constraint of the budget, there is definitely a difficulty. The priority of the budget is working piers and harbours.

“We can’t promise a simple solution, because there isn’t one.”

READ MORE: Council 'will explore all funding options' to save Helensburgh pier

Following publication of the Waverley’s May sailing schedule, HSDP said in a statement on their Facebook page that the group was “working with Argyll and Bute Council to resolve the current situation in regards to the pier and it is hoped that PS Waverley will be included in the summer 2019 timetable”.

A spokesperson for WEL said: “Waverley Excursions Ltd is committed to sailing Waverley from Helensburgh pier and appreciates the support Helensburgh locals and visitors have shown to the ship over many years.

“Waverley is currently undergoing her annual refit in Glasgow and will start her 2019 sailing season over the May bank holiday weekend before heading north for her annual visit to Oban.

“We welcome the steps being taken by Argyll and Bute Council to investigate the current structural integrity of the pier and identify works required to ensure that Waverley can call at Helensburgh during her main summer season.

“While we await works on Helensburgh pier we have included additional calls at Kilcreggan during our May bank holiday sailings.”

READ MORE: Call for council to work with community group over pier's future

The Waverley is scheduled to call at Kilcreggan on Friday, May 24 at 11.55am on a cruise to Dunoon, Largs and Millport, returning there at 5.50pm.

It will also visit on Sunday, May 26 at 12.05pm, en route to Dunoon, Blairmore and a cruise on Loch Long and Loch Goil, returning at 5pm.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The specialist timber testing that was being undertaken by Evova BM Trada, in December, is now complete.

“Initial findings are positive, in that the core of the timber is in reasonable shape, although we expect significant work will be required to allow vessels the size of the Waverley to berth.

“We are now awaiting the final report.

“The findings from the timber survey, along with those of Arch Henderson, will be considered as part of the structural analysis being carried out by the council’s design services team, and an update will be provided to the harbour board.”