A new ferry serving the Isles of Scilly could serve as a lifeline for Appledore Shipyard.

GMB, the union for shipbuilders, has called on shipyard owner Babcock Marine and MPs in the South West to ensure the contract for a replacement for Scillonian III goes to Appledore.

The union has written to Babcock urging to the company to consider the opportunity in order to preserve the shipyard’s 163-year history.

It believes that with work on the new Type 31e Frigates and Fleet Solid support Ships potentially coming to Appledore, the contract for the new Scilly Isles ferry could be enough to keep the shipyard afloat.

A statement from Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport (FRIST), said a new ship is needed to replace the 41-year-old Scillonian III, which was built at Appledore with the help of a £1million Government loan.

It added the £20m cost of the ship would be similar to estimated redundancy payments and would serve as a long term benefit to both North Devon and the Isles of Scilly.

Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer and chair or CSEU Maritime, said: “GMB demands that every opportunity that seeks to preserve the 163 year history of Appledore Shipyard must be explored.

“The statement from FRIST highlights some real potential in securing work to keep this historical shipyard open.

“Babcock is one of the lead consortiums bidding for the Type 31e Frigate Contract and are involved in a UK bid for the Fleet Solid Support ship contract.

“Surely work to build and provide a new ferry for the Isles of Scilly could provide a much needed solution to preserve jobs in Appledore in readiness for a potential share of the Frigate and/or FSS work.”

Earlier this month operators Babcock announced the shipyard would close in March, putting some 200 jobs at risk.

The announcement came days after hundreds of people marched along Bideford Quay in support of the shipyard, and union members handed a 10,000-strong petition to the Ministry of Defence.

READ MORE: Hundreds march through Bideford to chants of ‘Save Our Shipyard’.

READ MORE: Read North Devon and Torridge MPs’ full statements on shipyard closure.

Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox said he is doing what he can to help find a future for the shipyard.

Mr Cox met with the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson on Tuesday to examine the future of the shipyard.

Mr Cox has held a series of discussions with Mr Williamson and Ministry of Defence officials, and will hold a further meeting on how the Government can encourage other companies to take over operations at Appledore Shipyard.