THE operators of the paddle steamer Waverley are facing a £2 million bill to install new boilers in the famous ship – and a race against time to get the vessel back in service in 2020.

The predictions were made after Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL) announced that the ship would not sail at all in 2019.

The news of her withdrawal came a week after 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, is expected to launch a public appeal to raise the money needed to return her to service in 2020.

READ MORE: Waverley's future in doubt as all 2019 sailings are cancelled

Paul Semple, WEL’s general manager, gave the estimated cost during a radio interview following the news – and admitted it was far from certain that the money could be raised, and the new boilers manufactured and installed, in time to get the Waverley back into service next year.

Mr Semple 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.”

READ MORE: Waverley's operators cancel Clyde summer cruises

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.

This will be only the second year since the Waverley entered service in 1947 that she has not sailed on the Clyde.

She was withdrawn from service by Caledonian MacBrayne in 1973 and sold to the PSPS for preservation the following year for £1, before re-entering service in 1975.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier closed to all marine traffic over safety concerns

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.

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.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier may not be fixed until 2020 – and repairs could cost £1 million

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.