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July 2021

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2021

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We were all saddened, both personally and professionally, by the tragic death of Lachie Robertson on Thursday 24th June. It puts into perspective the reality of the fishing industry, and the dangers our fishermen face, but also reminds us of what an amazing community we live in, where everyone rallies round. Kenna and Rachael allowed floral tributes to be left on the Reul a’Chuain over the weekend, and the sheer number of flowers and the thoughtful messages left with them are testament to the character that Lachie was. He will be sorely missed around the Harbour and our deepest sympathies are with his family. 

Much of the work that was being undertaken around the Harbour and was mentioned last month is now complete. New markings have been painted around the Harbour, including some more parking spaces between the Prawn Market and the Co-op. We’ve had lots of enquiries about these, but effectively these were not ‘new’ spaces, but spaces required when we had to re-organise elsewhere, so unfortunately, the waiting list for parking is still as long as ever!

Friday 18th June was our AGM, and the end of an era as we had to say goodbye to Charlie King; Michael Foxley and Jackie Wright who had all served their maximum three terms as Board Members. In Charlie and Michael’s case, their association with the Harbour goes back much longer. Looking back at minutes, Charlie first attended a meeting of Mallaig Harbour (representing Mallaig Community Council) on 24th May 1984. Michael was also first on the Board of Mallaig Harbour 35 years ago, and with a break of five years has been involved ever since! The continuing restrictions meant that we couldn’t mark this occasion in the way we would have liked, but hopefully we will be able to acknowledge their contribution later in the year. Charlie’s support as Chair has been invaluable in the two years since I took over, and I suspect that there will be a few ongoing occasions when we need his advice!

With three retirals, we have appointed three new Board Members, David MacDonald, Sandra McLean and Helen Webb. We have also appointed Gavin Davis as Chair, and Nikki Robertson as Vice-Chair.

The AGM also sees the approval of the accounts, and some extracts from the Annual Report are included below:

Port Usage

A monthly average of 55 vessels of varying types made use of the Harbour, a lower number than last year’s average of 62. This excludes Marina usage by visiting vessels, which is documented elsewhere.

Fish Landings/Dues

After two months of bad weather at the start of the year, our fishing fleet had just returned to sea when markets crashed due to the impact of Coronavirus. The fleet tied up on 24th March, and fishing was sporadic for the remainder of the year. Issues associated with Brexit also impacted on the fishing fleet, with exports to Europe being affected from January to March 2021. Fishing 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 MarchHerringSprats/ MackerelWhitefishShellfishTotal Value

Quayside prices were slightly up for white fish, but significantly down for shellfish, which, along with the significant reductions in landings meant that the total value of landings was less than 40% of the previous year. 

Year end 31st March 2021:   Whitefish  £1,990 per tonne    Shellfish  £3,924 per tonne

Year end 31st March 2020:   Whitefish  £1,757 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,330 per tonne

Mallaig Harbour Ice

The ice plant is now fully commissioned, but still not operational on a self-service basis.

Over the year, we have sold 644 tonnes of ice, approximately half the amount sold in 2019/20 – again due to the issues associated with the fishing industry.

Fish Feed

During the year ending March 2020, 30,140 tonnes of fish feed was shipped through Mallaig, a reduction of 1/3 on the previous year.

This reflects changes in the market… As a result of the reduction… Cargill (EWOS) withdrew their large vessel, the Aqua Senior, from the West Coast from September 2020, and contracted with local suppliers Ferguson Transport and Inverlussa Marine to deliver feed.


The pandemic had a significant impact on ferry sailings throughout the CalMac network over the year, and Mallaig was no exception. Having begun a trial of additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale on 6th March 2020, the first of a three-year pilot, sailings were suspended as restrictions were imposed on 23rd March. From this time until 1st July there were no sailings between Mallaig and Armadale or Mallaig and Lochboisdale and a reduced ‘Lifeline Ferry Service’ operated to the Small Isles.

There is still a local issue with the vessels used for the Mallaig/Armadale route, which are unsatisfactory, and result in a number of sailings being cancelled each year due to tidal issues. However, this requires a longer-term and more strategic solution, outwith the shorter term issues associated with the pandemic.

CalMac have published carrying date for the calendar year 2020, and a comparison with 2019, and the relevant figures are included below.

  Mallaig – ArmadaleMallaig- LochboisdaleMallaig – Small Isles
 % reduction82.78%69.6%79.2%
 % reduction73.9%63.6%37.4%
 % reduction99%94.1% 
Commercial Vehicles202038164145
 % reduction71%52.5%22%

Armadale and Mallaig STAG

Subsequent to the publication of the completed STAG appraisal in April 2020, CMAL issued a statement in August that more clarity was required on vessel requirements before they would progress with the business case for Armadale. This issue is obviously important for the Mallaig development too, so we have paused any further preparatory work on the redevelopment of the ferry terminal awaiting further information on future vessel deployment. 


Covid-19 also impacted on the Marina, which wasn’t able to open until mid-July 2020, and even then, with restricted capacity. As a result, numbers were much lower than in previous years. Overnight occupancy was approximately 1/3 of what would normally be expected. July saw 129 overnight stays over the two week period the Marina was open, (498 for the whole of July 2019) and August 247 (290 the previous year). September 2020 saw 93 overnight stays, significantly higher than 2019’s figure of 59.  

In addition to the above a further 22 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina (56 in 2019).

Developments/Future Considerations

In the longer term, delivery of the Masterplan proposals remains MHA’s primary objective, but the timescales and challenges associated with this are recognised, and there are a number of shorter-term projects which can be delivered, and which will contribute to the overall vision contained within the Masterplan.

We have commissioned our Harbour Engineers, Wallace Stone, to progress a project to redevelop an area of the Outer Breakwater to ‘shovel ready’ stage. The intention would be to provide 60m of additional quay space and 4,000m2 of additional laydown space. We are also looking at dredging the Harbour to provide deeper berthing. The project is going through the Marine Licensing process at the moment. This would be a significant development, costing c.£10million but would alleviate some of the capacity constraints the Harbour is facing in the shorter term. Two of the projects identified as outstanding last year, a new pier side shed and new workshop, will be incorporated into this larger development.

The requirements for social distancing have highlighted the inadequacy of the existing ‘portacabin’ Marina Office, and we are looking at various options to replace this with a more permanent, and slightly larger structure over the next year.


Energy Efficiency: Energy Efficient LED light fittings have been ordered to replace the existing sodium fittings throughout the Harbour. Delays in the manufacture caused by difficulties sourcing raw materials mean that these will be installed in the first quarter of 2021/22.

Denholms Office and Ice Factory: Quotes have been received to convert the empty upstairs office in the Harbour Buildings formerly leased to Denholm Fishselling into three smaller offices and to provide improved welfare facilities for those based in the building, including Mallaig Harbour Authority. Development of the old Ice Factory will be considered as part of the wider ‘Outer Breakwater’ development.

Re-facing of the ‘Splay Berth’

Re-facing of the Splay Berth was completed in March 2021, after work was delayed due to Covid-19. At the same time, bollards and ladders within the Outer Breakwater were renewed. 

Passenger Shelter:

Following requests from the South Knoydart Community Council, Mallaig Harbour Authority made a successful application to Transport Scotland’s Ferries Accessible Fund to install a passenger shelter and purchase some ancillary equipment including wheelchairs and luggage trollies for those passengers making use of the passenger access pontoon. At the year end, the Shelter was in manufacture, due to be installed early May 2021.

Shore Power:

We successfully applied to the Scottish Government’s Marine Fisheries Fund for £207,000 to install Shore Power points, primarily for the fishing industry. A total of seven access towers with a combination of three-phase and single-phase connections will provide 28 connection points for commercial vessels using the Harbour. 

Jacqueline McDonell