THE paddle steamer Waverley faces an uncertain future after her operators announced the famous ship will not sail at all in 2019.

The ship's operators say that the historic vessel's boilers need to be completely replaced, and that all her sailings this year – on the Clyde, in the West Highlands, on the Bristol Channel, the south coast of England and the Thames – have been cancelled as a result.

The news, announced on Friday afternoon, comes a week after Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL) said the ship would not operate any of her Clyde sailings in May, June and July.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), the registered charity which owns the Waverley, will shortly launch a public appeal to save the ship in a bid to return her to service in 2020.

READ MORE: Waverley's operators cancel May, June and July cruises on the Clyde

WEL said in a statement on Friday: "Work on the ship’s boilers has been ongoing since February and following extensive consultation and investigation it has been concluded that the boilers must be replaced if Waverley is to have a future and sail in 2020."

Paul Semple, WEL's general manager, said: “The whole Waverley team is deeply disappointed that we are unable to repair the ship’s boilers and operate this season despite every effort being made to overcome the challenges presented.

"I know first-hand the fondness that the general public have for Waverley and I know this news will be disappointing for the tens of thousands of passengers who would have sailed with us this year around the UK.

"The registered charity which owns Waverley will shortly launch an appeal to save the ship and ensure she sails again.

"The cost of the required works is significant, but if every passenger who would have sailed this year was able to donate the cost of a ticket towards the appeal, then we will be able to return Waverley to steam next year.

"More than ever we need support to preserve this iconic vessel as the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world.”

Earlier this year WEL announced that the Waverley would not call at Helensburgh in 2019 because of concern at the deteriorating state of the town's pier, which has been closed to all marine traffic since last October on safety grounds.

READ MORE: Waverley won't sail from Helensburgh this summer

Friday's announcement means that 2019 will be only the second year since the Waverley entered service in 1947 that she has not sailed on the waters of the Firth of Clyde.

Built for the London and North Eastern Railway at the yard of A. & J. Inglis at Pointhouse in Glasgow, close to the present-day Riverside Transport Museum, for service between Craigendoran and Arrochar, the Waverley later sailed for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and then Caledonian MacBrayne before being withdrawn from service in 1973 amid a decline in Clyde steamer traffic.

But the following year she was gifted to the PSPS for just £1, and in 1975 re-entered service in preservation, offering nostalgic 'doon the watter' cruises on the Firth of Clyde.

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

Later, her cruising programme was extended to other areas around the UK's shores, and she is now a much-loved annual visitor to villages, towns and cities around the UK's coast.

She has carried more than six million passengers since entering preservation in 1975, and has, until now, visited more than 60 ports and piers around the UK every year.

The Waverley's boilers were replaced as part of a multi-million-pound restoration and rebuild programme between 2000 and 2003.