World’s last sea-faring paddle steamer in danger of going extinct after £300k fuel bill increase

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The Glasgow boat is the last of its kind - and it could go extinct if they can’t raise the funds

A public appeal has been launched today to urgently raise funds for the historic Glasgow-based Paddle Steamer Waverley so they can afford dry dock fees and re-commissioning costs - allowing them to sail in 2023.

The Waverly made a strong comeback in 2022 following the easing of pandemic restrictions, although they found that their operating costs had soared - leaving them without the funds to afford docking and other associated costs over the winter maintenance period. Despite ferrying over 100,000 passengers in Scotland, the south cost of England, and the River Thames in London - there is still a cash shortfall.

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This is in no small part due to the increase in fuel costs - the Waverly saw its bill go up by over £300,000 (or an over 60 per cent increase for the mathematically minded). The massive upsurge in pricing for fuel has left the operating charity with no choice but to ask for support from the community.

The ‘Dry Dock 2023 Appeal’, as its been named, has a target of £180,000 with over £35,000 already raised. Those who donate by March 1 will be entered into a draw to be selected for the opportunity to visit Waverley and see her out of the water in dry dock.

Paul Semple, Waverley’s General Manager, explained “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% 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.”

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“Operating a historic steamship like Waverley is inherently expensive. 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 - if they are able to get back out on the water this year. Waverley is also due to visit Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel, South Coast and London. Sailings from Liverpool and Llandudno are dependent on pier repairs being completed at the North Wales resort.

Donations to the Dry Dock 2023 Appeal can be made online at or by calling 0141 243 2224. Those donating online can opt to be included on a ‘Virtual Donor Wall.’

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