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August 2019

News from Mallaig Harbour: August 2019

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This has been a month of learning the ropes for me, meeting people and trying to understand everything that’s going on, and how it all fits together!

I’m lucky to have a great view from my office window, and there’s been a lot of activity outside the office this month as Knoydart Construction have the contract to build a new Hydro Electric scheme on the Barisdale Estate on Loch Hourn, so Milligan Transport have been taking all the required equipment in by sea from Mallaig.

The Marina has been busy, and we have two new staff supporting Chris – Courtney is managing the Shore Base, and Michael is covering days off for the summer season.

The warm weather has meant lots of demand on the ice plant – we’ve been working at capacity some days, but we continue to have issues with the IT side of things, so haven’t been able to fully automate the plant yet. 

We welcomed another new boat to the harbour this month. The ‘Fleur De Lys’ has been bought by Donald Sharman of Mallaig Boatyard Ltd, to be upgraded to provide weekly cruises.

There has again been some disruption to the Cal-Mac sailings, with the Lord of the Isles having to fill in for the Isle of Lewis and undertake some unscheduled runs to Barra, meaning that capacity between Mallaig and Armadale was affected. On the positive side, CalMac have installed two new passenger shelters, one for passengers waiting to access the Loch Nevis via the RO-RO ramp, and another one on the breakwater for those using the Skye ferries. These are designed to protect passengers from the worst of the weather. Thankfully they haven’t been needed much this month!

XOcean are still surveying the coastline this month, so you may have seen their remotely operated vessel south of Mallaig. It was making the most of the good weather last week, and headed back into the harbour at 10pm last Thursday, closely followed by its operator on the Harbour Tender. 

I’ve been reviewing some of the charges, and it has been agreed that we will increase the cost of an annual parking permit from £50 to £60 with effect from 1st August. This is still great value for money at £5 a month, and is the first increase since the charges were implemented. We have a waiting list for car parking spaces, so if anyone no longer wants theirs then please let us know.

Finally for this month, we have set up a Facebook page – so if you are interested in what’s going on, then give us a ‘like’!

Jacqueline McDonell, CEO :

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2019

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The big news this month is, of course, Robert MacMillan’s retiral after 35 years. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a month with him ‘learning the ropes’ before he left, and on his last day, Friday 28th June, we had a small gathering in the Harbour Office, where he was serenaded by Audrey and Grace and their ‘Duelling Banjos’ before enjoying a few refreshments. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement Robert!

Good Luck to Greig Milligan of Milligan transport who has taken delivery of the ‘Vega De Lyra’, a 23 metre cargo / general workboat originally built in HAR Shipyard, Marin, Spain in 2009.

The ‘Vega De Lyra’ (Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra) is the fourth boat in the Milligan Transport fleet.

Following on from last month’s news of the ‘Safe Arrival’ bound for Greenland, we are pleased to report that Gabriel Clarke and James Stevenson landed safely at Nuuk in Greenland on the morning of 14th June after a stormy passage. All are safe and well.

The second Mallaig Marina Day took place on Saturday 8th June, and was once again blessed with good weather. As with last year, the lifeboat moored alongside the pontoon and was open to visitors, and Western Isles Cruises ran free RIB trips, while children were entertained by a bouncy castle and bucking bronco. The RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission also had stalls, including face painting.  Thanks to Pimmy, who did most of the organising, and to Ben Gunn and his crew who manned the barbecue!

This month has also seen the use of an ‘autonomous vessel’ (unmanned boat), which has been undertaking hydrographic surveys around the local coast. You can find more details of the vessel and how it operates at

Our Annual Report is published in June, and below are some extracts from this:

Fish Landings/Dues

Landing volumes and monetary values for the current year, the two previous years plus two other random years (for comparative purposes) are listed:

Volume in Tonnes
Year ended 31st MarchHerring Sprats/ Mackerel White fish Shellfish Total Value
1978 9,483 10,425 3,712 887 £7,640,036
1984 405 1,582 5,373 1,055 £5,195,726
2017 0 2037 885 1542 £9,644,837
2018 410 1375 566 1184 £7,642,865
2019 0 0 397 752 £4,746,544

Quayside prices were, once again, an improvement on the previous year as regards white fish landings but this increase was not replicated in the shellfish sector:-

Year end 31st March 2019    Whitefish  £1,927 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,296 per tonne

Year end 31st March 2017    Whitefish  £1,734 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,322 per tonne

The statistical table above illustrates just how poor the fishing is for vessels operating in the South Minch area.  The catch value in 2019 is less than the value of landings in 1984 – 35 years ago and 50% less than the catch value of 2017.  Shellfish landings and white fish landings are both down by approx. 50% so it’s an extremely worrying time for vessel owners attempting to keep their businesses financially viable.

As well as dwindling catches in the white fish and prawn sector there was to be no end of year financial boost for the local fishing fleet.  The normally reliable sprat fishery was a complete washout with no sprats landed whatsoever – another mystifying situation!


The amount of cars and passengers conveyed on the CalMac ferries based at Mallaig during the year – MV “Loch Bhrusda”; MV “Loch Fyne”; MV “Lochnevis”; and MV “Lord of The Isles” – indicates a downturn when compared to the previous year.  Whilst commercial vehicles and coaches are pretty much on a par with the 2018 figures passenger figures are down by 3.2% and cars by 6.1%:

1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018                  1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019

Passengers:                    343,847                       Passengers        :               332,944

Cars:                                  82,230                       Cars                      :                 77,181

Coaches:                          2,375                          Coaches              :                   2,367

Commercials:                 851                             Commercials     :                      825

It may seem surprising that figures are recessionary particularly as the Mallaig – Armadale route is the fifth most popular route as the CalMac network, but when you factor in the amount of disruption that occurred the summer of 2018 you begin to understand why reduced numbers are evident.

It has been well documented particularly by the Sleat Transport Forum that the number of cancellations for varying reasons in 2018 was in excess of 380 with a further 276 pre-cancelled services due to tidal issues.  This equates to massive disruption on the Skye Ferry Service.


Usage of the Marina, once again, showed a slight increase on the previous year but any major increase in usage is constrained by the size of the marina.


                        Occupancy      Short Stay                    Locals

2018                    1602                  54                                65

2017                    1547                  42                                65

2013                    1338                  81                                60

In addition to the above a further 48 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina – the moorings were fully utilized during the summer months.

The current membership of the Mallaig Harbour Authority is as listed below:

Charles King (Chairman)                               

Gavin Davis  (Vice Chair)               re-appointed April 2019

Robert MacMillan (CEO)               (Jacqueline McDonell from June 2019)

Michael Foxley                                                                                 

Allan Henderson                                                                                             

John MacMillan                                

James Wilson                                                                                                    

Jacqueline Wright

Lorna Spencer                   New Appointment April 2019   


Jacqueline McDonell, CEO

Mallaig Harbour News June 2019

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West Bay Access Road

Plans are well advanced for the creation of an access road from the Highland Council’s Industrial Estate onto the Harbour West Bay Industrial Estate and we hope to progress this issue in the coming weeks/months.

Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone have submitted drawings/plans to Highland Council seeking their approval and once this is granted the contract will be put out to tender.  Hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.


Following on from their successful inaugural season participating in the Skye & Lochalsh Football League (they reached three finals and won the League Championship) it was agreed at the latest meeting of the Authority that we continue sponsorship of Mallaig F.C. for the 2019 season.

The photo shows Robert MacMillan of the Authority (extreme left) presenting a cheque for £1,500 to Jaimie Young of Mallaig FC.  Other team members in the photo are from left to right Andrew Sneddon, Brett MacMillan, Frazer Davis, Ryan MacDonald, David Buick, Liam McLean, Andy Cunningham, Rhys MacLeod, Damian Kenning and David Currie.

Best of luck to Mallaig FC for the 2019 season – here’s to more success!   

                                                                                               (Photo Moe Mathieson)


After 35 years at the Authority I have decided to retire and I leave office at the end of June.  My successor has been appointed and Mrs Jacqueline McDonell will take up her role on Monday 3rd June.

MALLAIG HARBOUR RETIRAL 21/5/19 Robert MacMillan, who is retiring as CEO of Mallaig Harbour Authority with his replacement, Jacqueline McDonell. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

I have greatly enjoyed my time with the Authority and would like to thank all Board Members who have served the Authority and helped me greatly through the years.

I need to thank in particular Mr Michael Currie who was Chairman for most of my time with the Authority and Mr Charlie King who was appointed Chairman in 2014 and was Vice-Chairman for the previous 30 years or so.  Over the years they have helped me enormously as we plotted a course through sometimes very stormy waters!

I would also like to thank Harbour Staff, past and present for putting up with me and always being there when needed.  They really did go the extra mile when requested.

Thank you all very much and best wishes to Jacqueline in her new post.                                                                                                                                                               (Photo Iain Ferguson)

Robert MacMillan


01687 462154