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January 2022

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2022

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Happy New Year everyone! For those lucky enough to have had a view of the Harbour at midnight on Hogmanay, we were treated to another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander, which this year was supplemented by some young local residents who had clubbed together to organise a pretty spectacular display. Between the two, some being set off from the Harbour, and some from the end of East Bay, it was a real treat to see in the New Year.

There has been no Sprat fishery to date this year, although the Caralisa changed gear again and set off on 4th January in the hope of finding some. The weather has certainly turned colder, so let’s hope this is a good sign!  

There is a bit of Déjà vu in writing this, as I’m not sure that anyone would have predicted that we would start 2022 still with the guidance to work from home where possible. The increase in Covid cases is impacting some of the services from the Harbour, including the ferries. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment around the CalMac timetable, which in the short term has been reduced to an Essential Services temporary timetable from 3rd to at least 23rd January.  Looking ahead, the Summer timetables from Mallaig are due to be published on 17th January. This is later than elsewhere in the Network and, while it should result in a better service from Mallaig to the Small Isles, Lochboisdale and Skye, it is causing some frustration for tourism businesses as it is making future planning, a challenge. If all the proposed services are implemented there will be up to 25 sailings a day from Mallaig in the height of the summer, using four different vessels, which is quite a logistical challenge for CalMac, and potentially for us on the Harbour!

Although 2021 was another disrupted year in terms of restrictions, the Harbour is fortunate to have a number of income streams, and the quieter times have allowed us to press ahead with some developments. We were lucky to receive funding from the Scottish Government towards the installation of shore power in February, funding which was made available as a result of the difficult conditions facing the fishing fleet. Although the power points were installed quickly, it took several months to get the whole system commissioned as we required an upgrade to the Harbour’s capacity.  However, all the points are now up and running and being well utilised by vessels. We were also able to install a passenger waiting shelter for the Knoydart ferry, with support from Transport Scotland’s Ferries Accessibility fund. This has been much appreciated and is a wee splash of colour on the Harbour. We also installed our LED lighting around the harbour, the start of a range of energy efficiency measures we hope to be able to implement over the next few years. Those of you who read this column regularly will also know that we have bigger plans for the Outer Breakwater, and we have almost completed the detailed design phase for these. We had to make some last-minute changes prior to submitting the Marine Licence, in order to incorporate plans for a new berth for CalMac ferries. The bathymetric survey of the Outer Harbour was undertaken in December, and there is still a small amount of investigative works to be done, hopefully in January before the works can go out to tender. Putting together a funding package for these works will be the priority for 2022, along with a replacement of the existing portacabin at the top of the Marina pontoon.

We had our final Board Meeting of the year on 10th December and were able to invite our previous Chair, Charlie King and previous Board Members, Jackie Wright and Michael Foxley to join us for a meal in the evening to mark their retirement. We had hoped to mark the occasion of Charlie’s retiral from the Board with a larger celebration, but with ongoing restrictions this was proving impossible. Gavin Davis, as current Chair, said a few words of thanks to Charlie, Michael and Jackie, and reflected on some of the highlights of Charlie’s 37 years on the Board before presenting each of them with a token of the Board’s appreciation. The Scottish Government’s ‘Modern Ports – Guidance for Good Governance’ sets a limit on the number of terms and therefore the length of time that a Board Member can serve now, and while this is good in lots of ways, and ensures there are always new ideas being generated, it does mean that no-one will have the chance to develop the same level of corporate knowledge and history that some of our previous Board Members, including Charlie, were able to. In looking through the minute books to gather some dates for Gavin’s speech, I was struck by how much some things have changed (in 1985 the Harbour Board agreed to write to the Health Authorities ‘regarding the indiscriminate wandering of sheep through the Harbour Area’) and by how much some things have stayed the same (in October 1998 ‘Mr C King intimated that a parking review of the village was currently being undertaken by The Highland Council’)! One thing that has definitely changed is the make-up of the Board. On 1st October 1993 Alison MacKenzie from Scotrail was welcomed as the first woman to sit on the Harbour Board, and now, including myself, the Board is two third’s women. I’ll leave others to make comment on that!

Jacqueline McDonell