I’VE never been to a ship’s launch before, but I wasn’t expecting queues round the block.

Perhaps I should have been.

The conductor on the train from Glasgow Central to Port Glasgow – where the MV Glen Rosa was to be put into the water for the first time ever at the Ferguson Marine shipyard – told me it was the busiest he had ever seen the route.

I’m not sure mid-morning on a Tuesday is the most packed route for any train, so I didn’t think much of it. But when I arrived, I saw what he’d meant.

People were queueing literally around the block for access to the yard. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

READ MORE: In pictures: A major milestone as MV Glen Rosa takes to the water

Staff told me that at the (private) launch of the sister ship, Glen Sannox, they’d had crowds outside the gates – so decided to open this one to the public.

On entry, the Glen Rosa was imposing and impressive. It towered over the roughly 1000 people who had turned out to see it float.

I’ve taken the MV Caledonian Isles, which currently serves the Arran route these new ships will take over, on multiple occasions – but it always looked much smaller. Maybe that has to do with it always being in the water.

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A few last-minute welds, a couple of final rollers of red paint, and the new ship Glen Rosa was ready to enter the water as well.

Except, then it wasn’t. Apparently, strong wind meant the launch had to be put off.

The irony in the brief delay was not lost on the crowd, and all the jokes you would expect were soon being passed around.

But soon the whistle blew and the massive ship was sliding down towards the choppy Clyde, accompanied by piping from SNP MSP Stuart McMillan – who also serves as the Holyrood parliamentary piper.

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But while the launch of the boat into the water was greeted with cheers from the crowd, there was a sense of concern among staff.

The shipyard has no more orders on its books, both the directors of CalMac and Ferguson Marine exited their roles in recent weeks, and the yard’s track record on building the Glens Sannox and Rosa is not a shining advert for its capabilities.

Even the Ferguson Marine interim chief executive, John Pettigrew, admitted the yard does not have a “great CV”.

Will the delivery of the Glen Rosa in September 2025 – 10 years after an order was first placed – mark the end of the shipyard?

There is hope of a brighter future.

Speaking to me after the launch, interim chief executive Pettigrew pointed to the “fast ferry scandal” in British Columbia in the late 1990s.

There will be many similarities to anyone familiar with the issues engulfing hulls 801 and 802: over-budget, behind schedule, falling short of original specifications.

Pettigrew highlighted how the shipyards involved in that Canadian public project are still working today, more than 24 years on.

“I've been in shipbuilding all my life, in shipyards all over the world,” the interim chief told the media. “I've had challenges like this in front of me before.”

He added: “It's a hard sell, but they have built ships here before … in time and on schedule. We need to get back to that.”

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Whether they can, only time will tell. Mairi McAllan, the Energy Secretary who spoke at the launch, was insistent that she was "absolutely not" ruling out further public contracts going to Ferguson Marine.

However, she told the media she did not have “unmitigated confidence” in its future.

“I'm very clear that to deliver future contracts, whether that is public or private, what we need to do is work to improve the competitiveness of the yard,” McAllan said.

Pettigrew suggested that to increase Ferguson Marine’s competitiveness, more investment may be needed.

Neither he nor McAllan would be drawn on the amounts being considered, but convincing the public any investment represents value for money may be Ferguson Marine’s greatest challenge.

If the show of public support for the launching of Glen Rosa is anything to go by however, perhaps it will be possible.