A public appeal has been launched today to “urgently” raise funds to enable the historic Paddle Steamer Waverley to afford dry dock fees and re-commissioning costs, and therefore sail in 2023.

The organisation which owns the famous ship, the world's last sea-going paddle steamer, says that despite carrying more than 100,000 passengers in Scotland and along the south coast of England and the River Thames last year, operating costs soared - with fuel costs alone increasing by more than £300,000.

Paul Semple, the ship's general manager, says that has left insufficient funds to pay for the ship's annual dry-docking.

Mr Semple said: “Waverley must be taken out of the water and dry docked annually before her sailing season begins.

"She is now booked to dry dock in late March and then re-enter service in May. Due to increased operating costs last season we don’t have enough money to afford this year’s dry dock and the numerous other costs we incur in the weeks before Waverley starts sailing.

"Last year our fuel costs increased by over 60 per cent or in real terms by over £300,000.

"This is a cost which the owning charity hasn’t been able to withstand. We urgently need to raise funds or we simply can’t afford the start up costs for this coming summer season.”

According to Waverley Excursions, which operates the ship, operating costs last summer hit £16,000 a DAY - with the cost of fuel accounting for half of that.

The Dry Dock 2023 Appeal has a target of £180,000 with more than £35,000 already raised.

Those who donate by March 1 will be entered into a draw to be selected for the unique opportunity to visit Waverley and see her out of the water in dry dock.

"Operating a historic steamship like Waverley is inherently expensive," Mr Semple continued.

"We are now spending over £600,000 a year just to maintain her in operating condition.

"Spare parts for a paddle steamer are rarely ‘off the shelf’ and come at considerable cost. Dry docking the ship is the single largest expense of the winter maintenance work and as things are we can’t afford to dock her.

"We are asking for help from anyone who wishes to see Waverley sail again this summer to support our appeal.”

Waverley’s outline sailing programme for 2023 has been published with the ship scheduled to start operating in May on the Firth of Clyde.

Waverley is also due to visit Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel, South Coast and London.

Sailings from Liverpool and Llandudno have also been pencilled in to the programme, but are dependent on pier repairs being completed at the North Wales resort.

Donations to the Dry Dock 2023 Appeal can be made online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224.

Those donating online can opt to be included on a Virtual Donor Wall.

Built in Glasgow for the London and North Eastern Railway, the Waverley entered service on June 16, 1947 and undertook a special cruise last summer to mark the 75th anniversary of her maiden voyage.

Withdrawn from service by the LNER's successor, Caledonian MacBrayne, in 1973, she was gifted to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society the following year for £1.

Since 1975 the ship has operated in preservation carrying over 6 million passengers, visiting many areas of the UK offering a variety of day, afternoon, and evening cruises.

The Waverley underwent a £7 million heritage rebuild in 2003 and a £2.3m refit in 2020 - the latter after the discovery that the ship's boiler needed replaced, forcing the cancellation of the ship's entire 2019 sailing season.

Most of the Waverley's 2020 programme then fell victim to the pandemic.