Campaigners have raised £70,000 so far in their attempt to save the last sea-going ship built in Bristol from the scrap heap.
Moored outside the M-Shed, the MV Balmoral excursion ship has been plying the British coast since it was built in 1949.
Since 1986 it has been the sister ship to the famous paddle steamer the Waverley taking tourists along the North Somerset coast.
However, it has not sailed this year and urgently needs a £350,000 refit. Campaigners say that without this urgent work, the ship will not receive a new safety certificate – due for next August. If it fails to get a new certificate, it is likely the ship will never sail again.
Speaking to members of the Bristol Civic Society, who were invited to an exclusive tour around the ship at the weekend, Dave Bassett from the MV Balmoral strategy group said the Balmoral was a “Bristol ship, and something the city can be really proud of”.
“This is Bristol’s ship, it is registered here, and it is the last big ship registered in Bristol to sail. If Balmoral ceases trading, we have lost the ability to travel from place to place along the coast,” he said.
The ship, which when it was launched in 1949 was the flagship of Red Funnel Steamers, needs to go through some 2,000 safety checks. Meanwhile, the generators on board are in urgent need of being replaced at a cost of up to £100,000.
The MV Balmoral Fund team is hoping to raise some money from on-board events over Christmas and the coming months. Volunteers are already working to refurbish the ship, while Bristol City Council is providing the city centre berth for free, plus free electricity.
Nic James, chairman of Waverley Steam Navigation, said the fact that the Waverley was Bristol’s last sea-going ship was a “sobering thought, considering the city’s maritime tradition”.
“There were hundreds of ships like Balmoral plying the coast years ago, offering day trips along the coast,” he said.
“Ships like this is the only way the ordinary person can see the coast of this country, unless you have your own yacht or are a strong swimmer.”
To find out more about the MV Balmoral, to donate and/or to book your event or Christmas party on board, visit www.mvbalmoral.org.uk