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Audrey McKay

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2023

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It’s the beginning of November, and after some remarkably good weather compared to the rest of the country, it feels like Winter has arrived! We are hosting the Screen Machine once again, and some of you may have already seen their plea for support for their request for financial assistance from the Scottish Government to keep the Screen Machine in operation. We have written a letter from Mallaig Harbour Authority, as the host for the Screen Machine in Mallaig, in support of this request. If you enjoy their visits to Mallaig, there is still time for you to do the same.

The Harbour always feels much quieter when the winter CalMac timetable starts, and this year is no exception. The Lord of The Isles was sailing to Mallaig this week, but is then off for her annual refit, and won’t be back until the end of November. We’ve received the Design Statement for the proposed overnight berth from our Engineers, Wallace Stone, so we have a bit of work to do over the winter to make sure it suits all the different needs, and then to persuade Transport Scotland of the benefit of funding it!

It’s the time of year when Marine Scotland publish their annual landings data for the year. The headline figures for the Mallaig District this year were that 1,385 tonnes were landed, with a value of £5,935,000. This was an increase in value of 22.8%, the second highest of any Scottish District, and a very slight decrease in tonnage of 0.4%.

It’s worth noting that these figures from Marine Scotland are for the Mallaig District, and not just the port. The district covers the whole of Ardnamurchan, the Small Isles and the North Shore of Loch Linnhe to Fort William, so not all the fish included in these figures was landed into Mallaig. However, we are always asked to comment on these headline numbers, so we do a bit of our own analysis. Our records of reported landings from the vessels through Mallaig, which are by financial year rather than calendar year, actually showed an increase in the quantity of landings between the y/e March 2022 and 2023 of 40%, from 522,215kg to 733,829kg. From this, it’s evident that only around half the landings into the District are actually made through Mallaig.

From our figures, average shellfish prices increased by 36.25% between 2021/22 and 2022/23, while average white fish prices decreased by 33%. The total value of landings through Mallaig increased from £2.4million in 2021/22 to £4.8million in 2022/23, an increase of 100%.

Once again, Peterhead topped the landings tables, with 154,883 tonnes landed, worth £191,060,000. I was through in Peterhead for the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group meeting on the 5th and 6th October, and we were given a tour of the Peterhead fish market while the market was in progress on the Friday morning. It’s on a different scale altogether from Mallaig, as you will see from the photos.  The whole port is on a different scale – but it’s always good to go and see other Ports and to have the chance to discuss common issues. The scale of operations at various ports might vary significantly, but many of the challenges are similar. 

The Marina is now closed for the season, and Gena has finished for the Winter. As some of you will know, Chris Jones has been off for a period. We’re looking forward to having him back in the next week or so, but we’re also very grateful to Gena for holding the fort in his absence, and to Kenny Harris, Ross Carr and Ruairidh McDonell who all stepped in to help keep the Marina running smoothly at various times over the summer. Looking at the figures for the year this was our busiest season since the Marina opened, with 1,857 nights occupied by visiting boats over the season, as well as a number of regular charters operating from Mallaig.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2023

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Autumn is definitely in the air, and although we missed out on the worst of the weather associated with storm Agnes, the unsettled weather has meant that the boats have been tied up for most of the last week, and the harbour has been busy with fish farm vessels seeking shelter too. There have been a couple of unusual weather incidents this month. On Tuesday 12th into Wednesday 13th September, the Northern Lights put on quite a show above the village, so much so that our CCTV in the Marina was even able to capture them through the glare of the streetlights. On Thursday 28th, I looked up from my desk to see the most unusual sun. I know you shouldn’t look at the sun directly, but it took me a minute to decide whether it was actually the sun or the moon!  Apparently, it was due to the smoke from wildfires in America.

The Marina has quietened down considerably, although there are still occasional yachts calling in on their way South. We have had a busy season, and for the first two weeks in September 55 vessels used the pontoon, compared to 39 in 2022. On Wednesday 27th September, the students from the Marine Training Centre were taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get a bit of practical experience in using the RIB when we got a call at the Harbour office from a yacht making for the Marina who had engine trouble. The students got to experience a real life scenario when their tutor kindly agreed to take them out and escort the yacht into the harbour, eventually towing it as there wasn’t enough wind for it to make steady progress.

We have had a fair bit of interest in the Deputy Harbour Master post. The closing date is not until 27th October, to allow for the October holidays, so there is still a bit of time for anyone with an interest to submit an application. All the information on the post, including how to apply, is on our website or in an advert in WestWord.

We had an oil spill response exercise on 20th September.  Briggs Marine, who provide support services to us in the event of an oil spill, were on site to go through a scenario with us. The exercise tested all aspects of our response, from the co-ordination to the practical application of the training the staff have in how to contain and clean up an oil spill. The Loch Bhrusda was used as the ‘casualty’, with booms floated around her in the berth in the Outer Harbour, and a demonstration of an oil skimmer. As well as our own staff, we had representatives from the MCA, and staff from Denholms, CalMac and Scottish Seafarms who attended to provide support and learn about what to do in a real incident. We’re always grateful when the other businesses who use the Harbour work with us to supplement our small team of staff! 

The Loch Nevis has been away for her annual refit, and is due to return on the 30th September, while the Loch Fyne attempted to leave us for the season on 29th September but had to turn back due to the stormy weather. The intention was that from Saturday 30th September until 19th October, the Loch Bhrusda would be operating alongside the Coruisk to Skye. However, issues elsewhere in the network now mean that the Coruisk will be the only vessel on the Skye run, until she leaves on 19th October. This means that from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd October, there will be no vehicle service to Skye – a passenger service will be operated by the Larven. The Winter timetable then starts on Monday 23rd October. It seems incredible that this is less than a month away!

Finally, huge congratulations to Mallaig FC, who have already won the West Highland Amateur Football’s William Wilson League; and the Ross Cup. They were on for the treble if they had been able to beat North West Skye on 30th September in Portree – unfortunately, this wasn’t to be, despite us all having our fingers crossed for them at the Harbour! They’ve had a great season once again, and we’re proud that our sponsorship plays a small part in their success.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: September 2023

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August seems to have passed in a flash, and we are already into September! It has felt like a very quick month with not much of note to report. The yachting season is drawing to an end, although the good weather in the first week of September has given the Marina a wee boost. Both the Blue Clipper and the Eda Frandsen will have finished their season in Mallaig by the time you read this, which is always a sign for us in the Harbour that summer is over!

The Harbour was the setting for the Maritime day on Sunday 13th August, to raise funds for the Mallaig RNLI and RNMDSF (Fishermen’s Mission). Although the weather wasn’t great on the day, it was dry for a few hours, and it seemed to be just enough to encourage everyone to come and spend their money. It was nice to see the Gala Day back on the Harbour, albeit in a smaller format than previous years. The Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District (MaaD) Pipe Band opened proceedings, and then played to welcome the Steam Train into Mallaig, so that encouraged some of the visitors to the area onto the Harbour to spend their money! The pipe band are back to regular Monday evening practices now that the schools are back in, and while the weather is good, they are hoping to do these on the bandstand, so listen out for them!

We are always a bit behind by the time we collate all fishing landing information, but the visiting fishing vessels continued into July, and as for last year, the value of landings for the month of July was over £1million, which is positive news for both the Harbour and the fleet!

The work at Eigg to remove rock from the approach to the ferry berth took much longer than first anticipated, so the Wyre Estuary was berthing overnight in the Harbour for the whole month of August, rather than the fortnight that they had planned for. This should hopefully mean the end of tidal sailings for the Loch Nevis – but she is away for her annual overhaul at the moment, so the Loch Bhrusda and the Larven are covering. We lost both the Coruisk and the Loch Bhrusda for a few days at the end of August – the Coruisk to Oban for the Mull run and the Loch Bhrusda to Berneray for the Sound of Harris run. Both have now returned to Mallaig.   

August is also the month when parking invoices / permits are issued. Because we have been a bit short staffed, we haven’t managed to issue these yet, but we will be sending out terms and conditions along with the permits this year. We know that parking is a nightmare in the village, but it’s equally a nightmare for us when people park randomly on the Harbour. During the winter months, when it’s quieter, we try to be more lenient with this, but there seems to have been a steady stream of parking issues over the last few weeks. Please don’t park in a space unless you have either a permit to be in that space, or express permission from the permit holder. We have three visitor spaces behind the prawn market, which are intended for visitors to the Harbour Office, or contractors we have working for us. We don’t mind if these are empty and someone uses them to nip to the shop – especially outwith office hours, but many of the issues that have arisen lately are because these are being used as unofficial parking spaces. We’ve also noticed people using Scottish Seafarms spaces (alongside their office and in the area adjacent to our workshop). Scottish Seafarms staff are now back working in Mallaig, and need these spaces again so if you have been sneakily using one of these, then please don’t! It’s always a challenge in the summer months, and easier in the winter, so many of these issues will be resolved in the next few weeks when things quieten down, but I thought it was worth just reminding everyone. We’d love to be able to accommodate all those who ask for spaces, but it’s just not possible, and at the moment we have a waiting list of over 30 people for the spaces we do have.

We’re still working away in the background on developments for the Outer Harbour, including the new overnight ferry berth, and ways of achieving some of the other projects we had hoped to do if our funding application had been successful. We’re hoping to undertake an economic impact assessment over the next couple of months, which will enable us to make our case more strongly with funders. This will require the successful consultant to consult with some of our key stakeholders, including the communities served by the harbour. We hope to have this done over the winter months, when people have a bit more time to contribute.

Finally this month, we have an advert placed in West Word and in our vacancy page on this web-site for a Deputy Harbour Master. We are hoping to recruit someone who will be able to work alongside our existing Harbour Master, Pimmy, with a view to becoming Harbour Master at some point in the future. We realise that Pimmy’s shoes are going to be big shoes to fill when the time does eventually come, but there’s a lot of knowledge to be shared, so we thought we should start the search for a successor!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: August 2023

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Thankfully the weather did hold for the Marina Fun Day, even although the Bucking Bronco unfortunately cancelled on the morning of the event because the forecast wasn’t looking good. Feedback was that the day was enjoyed by everyone who attended, and I have to say a special thanks to Pimmy and Audrey who as usual were behind the scenes making sure everything went smoothly. Thanks are also due to Nevis Estates who provided refreshments for the day; to Andy and Rose, Ross and Helen who helped with the barbecue throughout the day; to Allan MacKenzie for piping and to those from the RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission who manned the stalls and provided entertainment for the younger ones.

The Marina has had a busy season so far. For the first four weeks in July we had 455 berth nights occupied, which compares well to last year’s total of 454 for the whole month, and even to 2019’s total of 498 for the month. We are seeing a trend of larger vessels, which reduces the capacity of the marina, and regular visits from the Pellew, Eda Frandsen and Selkie mean that the hammerheads are also well used. Pellew has now left us for the season, but Eda Frandsen is with us until 11th September. We have also welcomed back the Blue Clipper this month, who along with Provident is using the Harbour as both are too heavy for the pontoons.  Last month I mentioned we were a member of staff down on the Harbour. Hugh is still off, and Chris has also had to take time off from the Marina this month, so we have been juggling staffing a bit. Ross and Gena have been holding the fort in Chris’ absence, joined by Ruairidh, who came home from college for a break and was landed straight in at the deep end! We are really appreciative of our staff who step up to keep things operating as normal regardless of what is thrown at them!  

Fishing has also remained steady throughout the month, with reasonable catches being landed by our local and some visiting boats. This has mainly been shellfish, and very limited quantities of white fish. After the really low landings of 2020 and 2021, it’s great to see them picking up a bit – although I realise that it’s all relative, and that the landings being made are much lower than even 10 years ago!

We said goodbye to the Reul a’Chuain this month, as her new owner, Justin, sailed off to start the boat’s next chapter after spending several months working on her in the Harbour.

We met with Kate Forbes on 17th July to talk through our plans for the Harbour and look at alternative funding options and how to progress with the project. Kate also took the opportunity to meet with some of the local fisherman to talk through their concerns about HPMA’s and to listen to their thoughts on what any replacement proposals should consider.

We also had a debrief with the Scottish Islands Federation and others who were involved in the Marine Litter Pilot, which resulted in ropes and nets from the Small Isles and Skye being taken for recycling by Ocean Plastic Pots, supported by Keep Britain Tidy. We all agreed that the initiative had worked well, and can hopefully be repeated again next year.

Some of you will have noticed accommodation cabins have arrived in the West Bay car park in the first week of August. These have been brought up by Wyre Marine Services, who have the contract to remove rock off the harbour in Eigg, which has been causing a disruption to ferry services. The work is due to take two weeks, and the cabins have been brought in for crew accommodation, as they weren’t able to secure alternative accommodation locally.

Finally, the Mallaig branches of the RNLI and Fishermens’ Mission fundraising groups are hosting a gala day on the Harbour on Sunday 13th August. This will be the first gala day since pre-pandemic, and will be on a slightly smaller scale than previous gala days. It’s being held on Sunday as there were no suitable Saturday dates that didn’t clash with other events. If you are in the area, please come along and support there two worthwhile causes!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2023

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The weather broke, just in time for the school holidays, and this meant that we had to postpone the proposed Sea Angling Competition on 1st July. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the rain stays off long enough on Saturday 8th July for us to host our first Marina Fun Day since 2019. 

Fishing has remained steady throughout the month, and prices for shellfish have been good. We have welcomed a few visiting boats throughout the month, although not as many as last year. There have also been some changes to the well boats harvesting salmon this month, with the Ronja Challenger being redeployed to Canada, and the Ronja Viking operating from Mallaig throughout the month.

We held our AGM on Friday 16th June, and said goodbye to Shona MacLeay, who had served her first term as a Board Member, and, due to other commitments, had decided not to reapply. We welcomed Peter Hillier, who had been co-opted onto the Board last year, as a full Board Member.

It has felt like a month of meetings – after the disappointment of not getting the DEFRA funding we are looking at various alternatives, which has involved lots of discussion with various groups and organisations to raise the profile of what we are trying to do.

Many of you will have seen the news last week that Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, announced that the proposal to develop HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas) as consulted on, will not be progressed. This means that the Government will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas by 2026. Although this was widely reported on as HPMA’s being scrapped, it’s actually not as straightforward as this. The government intends to develop a new pathway and timetable for their work to enhance marine protection, which will be in line with their draft biodiversity strategy and ambition for Scotland to be nature positive by 2030. However, there was a recognition that this needs to be done in consultation with the communities impacted, so we will look forward to engaging with whatever comes next, and working with the fishing industry locally to ensure the best possible outcomes for the local area. Prior to the Ministerial announcement, the Seafood Sector had gathered at the Scottish Parliament on 15th June to launch a petition urging the Government to scrap HPMAs. You can find more detail on the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation website,

We welcomed the Lord of the Isles back to Mallaig on 30th June, so for the moment we have a full complement of ferries – lets hope it stays that way for at least the duration of the summer holidays!

We’re a member of staff down at the Harbour at the moment, as Hugh Cameron was able to take advantage of a cancelation at short notice to have a knee operation done, which means that he will be off for much of the summer. Thanks are due to Danny, Simon and Sandy, who are covering and making sure everything runs smoothly in Hugh’s absence. We’ve welcomed back Ross Carr to cover days off at the Marina for the busier summer months.

This month we have granted a lease to Mallaig Men’s Shed for one of the units within the Prawn Market to get themselves established. We’ve also donated the old portacabin from the Marina to them, and it will be moved to the rear of the Prawn Market. Having a base will allow the Men’s Shed to be open more frequently throughout the week, and a bit more space will allow them to take on some small projects. We’re not promising the breakfast rolls that Michelle has been spoiling them with at their regular Monday meetings in the Community Centre though – they might have to make their own tea and coffee! If you are passing the prawn market and see them there, call in for a cup of tea and a blether, and to find out what they are up to – everyone is welcome, young and old!

Finally, we have had a very special visitor to the Harbour Office on more than one occasion this month – baby Fergus McKay De Wilde is Audrey’s second grandchild, and was born on 18th June. Congratulations to Fiona and Leo, and to Granny Audrey!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2023

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It hasn’t been a great start to the year in terms of weather, which has meant that very few of the boats have moved. The Sprat pump is still on the pier but has had no use at all this year, for the second year in a row. The stormy weather has seen some Irish fishing boats taking shelter in the Harbour while passing through on their way to or from the fishing grounds, but very limited landings for January.

Looking at overall landings for the year, we had a few visiting boats landing during the summer months, which took our total for the year almost to pre-pandemic levels. After the much lower figures for 2020 and 2021 this was a welcome boost.

Last month I outlined details of the services that were due to be put in place while the ferry terminal in Uig was out of action, which included five sailings a week between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, and two return trips on a Saturday. Unfortunately, disruption elsewhere in the network has once again meant that this has not been possible. There have also been various disruptions to the Loch Nevis sailings, in part due to weather, and in part due to infrastructure issues on the Small Isles and in Armadale. The Armadale issue meant that the Screen Machine was unable to come to Mallaig for their scheduled visit on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st January, which was disappointing for all those who had booked tickets for the various films.  

I have spent much of the month meeting with stakeholders, and gathering information to submit a funding bid to DEFRA for the Outer Harbour project. We have had to revise the scope of this project, as to proceed with the original project, which included drilling and blasting to deepen the Harbour and the construction of a splay berth, was proving to be unaffordable for the Harbour. It is still our intention to deepen the Harbour by dredging, without the drilling and blasting, and construct the splay berth, but this is obviously subject to the funding bids being successful. While taking out the drilling and blasting element will mean that the Outer Harbour won’t ultimately be the -6m below chart datum that we had hoped for, it will mean that the works can be completed with much less disruption and in a shorter time period than we had initially thought. The original programme had allowed 33 weeks for the drilling and blasting, and vessels would have had to work round the drilling barge throughout this period. We are hopeful that the dredging will deepen the Harbour to -5m below Chart Datum, so there will be some benefit to the MOWI well boats, which have to work tidally at the moment.

Those of you in Mallaig will have noticed that the new foundation has been completed for the Marina Cabin and we hope that construction will start on this mid-February. We are building a wooden cabin which will be slightly larger than the previous portacabin, and properly insulated etc. so a bit more pleasant for our staff.

You may have seen adverts locally for a Marine Litter event, which is being organised by the Scottish Islands Federation and funded by Marine Scotland with support from Highlands and Islands Environment Forum. The event is taking place in the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig on 28th February from 10am until 3.30pm. Marine litter, made up of household plastic items and fishing litter, is a massive problem for island and coastal communities – causing pollution, killing wildlife and being landfilled instead of being eliminated or recycled into other products. The event will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to identify sustainable solutions to the problem of marine plastics and their disposal. We have been in discussion with the Scottish Islands Forum, and particularly with our Small Isles colleagues, to look at whether we can host a pilot to collect marine litter for recycling. Everyone is welcome at the event, and you can register through Eventbrite – you will find the link on Mallaig Harbour’s Facebook page.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2023

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Happy New Year everyone! We welcomed the New Year again this year with another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander, again supplemented by some local residents who had clubbed together to organise a pretty spectacular display. It’s becoming a regular tradition, and BBC Alba had even hoped to film it live as part of the Hogmanay ceilidh being broadcast from Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, but unfortunately some of the Harbour buildings were in the line of site to the satellite link so those of us who were at the ceilidh had to miss out on the fireworks!

Another similarity from last year is that there has again been no Sprat fishery to date this year, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the pump will be taken down unused before the end of the month.   

Looking back at last year’s January news, we had achieved a number of projects over the year. This year, it very much feels like all the emphasis has been on the Outer Harbour development, and the various iterations of this that we have had to go through. We now have a plan from Wallace Stone for the initial phases of the works, which are estimated to take 33 months in total and which will lead to disruption in the Outer Harbour, in particular while the dredging and blasting take place. This is likely to take around 30 weeks. We hope to manage it so that overnight berthing will be available throughout this time, and we are working with the main users of the Outer Harbour to try and timetable these works for the quietest periods to minimise disruption as far as possible.

Some of the works we are proposing will be for the benefit of CalMac, but we recognise that there has been significant disruption elsewhere in the CalMac network, and that this will continue with the closure of Uig for upgrading works. This will be done over two periods, the first from 16th January to 13th March 2023, and the second at the end of the summer season, from 30th October to 11th December 2023. During these periods there will be additional sailings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, so we recognise the importance of there not being disruption in Mallaig during these periods. Between January and March, it is planned that there will be five sailings a week between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, with two return trips on a Saturday.  Let’s hope the weather is kind to allow this to happen! Further details and all the timetables can be found on CalMac’s website—Customer-Update.

The Scottish Government have also published their recommendations under the Strategic Transport Review 2 (STPR2). These can be accessed on Transport Scotland’s website – just search ‘STPR2’, and include a recommendation (No 42) for improving port infrastructure; ‘Investment in port infrastructure, including power supplies, would complement the introduction of new and upgraded ferry vessels. This would help meet the needs of rural and island communities by improving the capacity, resilience, reliability, accessibility and standardisation of ferry services and reducing their emissions. Investment in port infrastructure means that there can be progress to standardisation and interoperability of new and existing vessels, increasing network resilience. This investment would also contribute to reducing emissions across the ferry network and support Scotland’s net zero carbon emission targets.’ MHA needs to recognise this recommendation in any works we undertake, especially relating to the ferry infrastructure in Mallaig.

Those of you who live locally will be aware that Scottish Sea Farms were among those fishfarm operators who had difficulty with loss of salmon due to microscopic jellyfish blooms. This resulted in an increase in mortalities having to be landed in Mallaig, particularly in September. In agreement with Scottish Sea Farms, we charged a premium for these landings, with the intention of the monies going back into the community. In total, the premium was £900, so at the Board Meeting in December we agreed that these monies would be split as follows: £250 to Mallaig Community Council for the Christmas lights; £200 to Mallaig Primary School; £150 to the local Cubs and Beavers, who undertake an annual beach clean and who plant flowers at the entrance to the Harbour each year; and £300 as seedcorn funding to enable those interested in establishing a Men’s Shed locally to take forward the project.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2022

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The Sprat pump was installed but so far there haven’t been any landings of Sprats, which is always disappointing. Not only do Sprat landings give a good boost at the end of the year to the fisheries, it would also have been a good test for the ice plant, which was shut down for a week in November while we installed a new gearbox and undertook various other bits of maintenance. Although we think of the ice plant being ‘new’, it has been in operation for almost four years now and so was needing some TLC. As with all things Harbour related, there had to be a challenge around the works! Despite us and the boats being organised, with ice orders made for the preceding Friday to last the fishing boats through the planned shut-down, the Ronja Challenger used the berth overnight on the Thursday and had an engine breakdown, which meant it couldn’t move on the Friday morning to allow the fishing boats in. Thankfully the Harbour staff had a plan ‘B’ and the new ice bins we had ordered in anticipation of a busy sprat season were filled and put in the chill for the boats to access as required. 

I attended the Aquaculture and Innovation Day as part of Lochaber Ideas Week. Servicing the Aquaculture industry is a big part of the Harbour’s income and it was good to meet with others involved in the industry and to see some of the new ideas that are coming through. As we are looking at development in the Harbour, it’s useful to understand some of the innovations that might be taking place in the Aquaculture industry, so that we can adapt our plans to support these. The idea of ‘active’ fendering systems for example, which use tidal motion to generate electricity, is something that we might be able to consider down the line. Some of the ideas being talked about, such as these ‘active’ fenders, are just at concept design, while others, such as a hybrid system which uses the diesel generators on fish farms to intelligently charge and discharge batteries, and therefore reduces reliance on these diesel generators, saving money and reducing carbon emissions, are already well established. 

Although the fishing has been very quiet, there is still a lot of activity on the Harbour – with lots of interesting loads of cargo for Knoydart recently. One of our Board Members, Jim Wilson has been working with the Knoydart Foundation (Knoydart Renewables) on their project to provide energy security, so we took delivery of a new transformer recently, as well as miles of new cabling and the pipework for it to be buried in. There’s also roof trusses and lots of insulated board, which we are presuming is for someone’s new house. Sometimes I think that it should be a condition of building materials being loaded over the pier that we get a photo of the finished project – it would be interesting to chart the progress over the years!

We’ve had a visit this month from staff at the Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC), part of the UHI based in Fort William, who are able to support Small and Medium sized enterprises throughout the Highlands and Islands. The Centre can provide a range of services to help local businesses, including 3D scanning and printing (at scales up to full building size!); Project Support and CAD and CAM services. Although we don’t really manufacture anything on the Harbour, we do have some ideas that they can hopefully help us with – including streamlining processes in the feed shed to manage stock better. Another example the AMC used was being able to 3D scan boats to allow organisations to consider how any changes that they might be proposing to make to the layout on deck (or below) would impact the vessel. The Advanced Manufacturing Centre is happy to help all sectors of business, and are really approachable and helpful, so if you have anything you think they can support you with – get in quick as there is EU funding available for the next few months.

Wallace Stone have been in discussion with potential contractors about how the works in the Outer Harbour might proceed, and have provided us with some potential options. As a Board we are going to consider these, and the associated disruption that they might cause, and we will then be talking to wider stakeholders, hopefully early in the new year.

Finally, we’d like to wish all Harbour users, and the wider community, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2022

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The clocks have changed so it’s dark late afternoon; the Steam Train finished on the 28th October, and CalMac are on their winter timetable so the Loch Fyne, Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk are away for the season. Summer is definitely over! The harbour seemed very empty for a few days, but the stormy weather has seen it fill up again so we are juggling berths to fit everyone in!

Another sure sign that summer is over is that the sprat pump arrived at the end of October, just about the same time as it arrived last year. Unlike last year, we haven’t installed it yet, until we have more information about when the fishing is likely to start. It feels a bit like Déjà vu, as last year when I wrote about it being installed I said the weather still felt a bit mild for sprats, and the weather has definitely been mild the last couple of weeks.

Some of you may have seen press coverage of the fishing statistics published by Marine Scotland for the 2021 calendar year. These showed an increase in the value of landings for the Mallaig District of almost 38%. Whilst this seems very positive, it has to be taken in the context of the very low landings in 2020, and also the fact that this is for the whole district covered by the Mallaig office of Marine Scotland, which also includes the Small Isles and Ardnamurchan, and the North Shores of Loch Linnhe to Corpach. Tonnage for the year fell by -1.5%. By far the majority of landings throughout the district were shellfish (83% by tonnage), and this is certainly the case for landings through Mallaig Harbour as well. Marine Scotland’s figures for the district showed a total of £4.8million was landed throughout the district, while our figures for last year showed landings of £2.4million through Mallaig Harbour, so only half the district landings came through Mallaig Harbour. For comparison, the same statistics showed a peak for the district in 2017 of £9.8 million, and landings through the Harbour in 2017 were £8.16 million, so a much larger proportion of the landings were through the Harbour in 2017 than is the case now. I’ve mentioned in previous months the challenges facing the industry, and this month the Reul a’Chuain was sold to be converted to a houseboat, and the Silver Dawn has also been tied up so the local fleet is reducing further.

It’s the end of the season at the Marina so the seasonal staff are all finished for another year. Our thanks go to Gena, Michael and Ross for working alongside Chris this season. It’s been another busy year, with 1,700 nights occupied at the Marina, and 1,022 vessels. Total nights occupied are higher than last year, and even slightly higher than 2019 – pre-pandemic.  We’re going to remove the portacabin from the top of the pontoon within the next month so that the concrete can be laid for the foundation of the new office ‘cabin’ which will be up and running for next season.

Last November, I wrote that the works had started on converting the Denholm Office into smaller spaces, and this November I am delighted to say that the new tenants are finally able to move in. Mallaig Fishermen’s Co-op and West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation are in the process of moving across from their existing offices above the railway station. It will be great to have some more activity through in that side of the building again. Some of you will know that my husband works for WSFPO, and that he used to be employed by Denholms, working in the office we have converted, so there have been lots of jokes about being in the same building, and about him almost getting his old desk back!

I also mentioned last November that we had submitted the Marine Licences for the works in the Outer Harbour. It may not look like much progress has been made with this, but there has been lots of work going on ‘behind the scenes’. We have added an additional ferry berth to the scope of the original works, in response to the Coruisk being back, and the Loch Bhrusda supporting the Loch Nevis. While this has delayed things, it will mean that the overall project makes as efficient use as possible of the space within the Outer Harbour. We are consulting with CalMac at the moment about this new ferry berth to ensure it meets their needs, and then hopefully we will be able to cost the project and apply for funds to make it all happen! You will have seen in the media elsewhere, announcements about new ferries and various other works being undertaken to the ferry infrastructure. There are plans for a replacement for the Lord of the Isles, and also initial consultation is being undertaken by CMAL on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme. Both of these have potential impacts for the infrastructure in Mallaig, and we have to be sure that any work we undertake in the Outer Harbour considers these potential impacts. You can find details about these projects at

Finally this month, we sponsored Mallaig Football Club again this year, and after a long season, with some disappointments along the way, they were worthy winners of the Ewen MacRae Cup.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2022

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The good weather now seems a distant memory – with wind and rain for much of the first week in October, and most of the boats tied up. Thankfully, it was still relatively mild at the start of September, when we welcomed Jasmine Harrison and her support crew to the marina on 7th September. Jasmine set off in June to swim the length of Great Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats. As of the 3rd October, she had rounded Cape Wrath – so not too far to go in the scale of things! You can read more about Jasmine and track her progress at

The Loch Nevis has returned from its refit, and the Loch Bhrusda is now away to cover the Sound of Barra run for October. The Lord of the Isles is not running to Mallaig at the moment, while repairs to the linkspan in Lochboisdale are being undertaken.

CMAL held a public webinar on 31st August to share an update on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme, which includes the Loch Fyne and the Loch Bhrusda. You can access the slides and watch a recording of the webinar at . The winter CalMac timetables have now been published, and while the Loch Bhrusda will not be undertaking the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale during March that she has for the last three years, there will be two afternoon sailings Mon-Saturday from 24th October until 5th November and then from 16th to 30th March. There are also some changes to the Small Isles sailings, due to the turnaround time on each island being increased to a minimum of 20 minutes.

After two really good months of fishing, August’s landing figures were down to around £650k. However, that still means that landings for June, July and August of this year were higher than the total landings for the year to March 2022! The challenges for the fishing industry are ongoing though. The Delivery Plan for the Fisheries management strategy 2020 to 2030 has recently been published, and the Chair of the Inshore Fisheries Group, Simon MacDonald hosted a meeting for interested parties in Mallaig on Wednesday 28th September.

Things have really quietened down at the Marina, so it will no longer be staffed at the weekends from now until the end of the season. It’s been a busy year, and we were pleased to feature in a list of the ten best UK boating destinations, as chosen by a ‘sea-faring mum who has spent the last five years exploring Britain’s coasts’ – Heather Kemp. The article named Mallaig as a ‘must-visit location, known for its stunning sunsets and wildlife including dolphins, whales and sea eagles.’ We can’t disagree with that!

On the 1st September I attended the Scottish Ports Group meeting, organised by the British Ports Association and hosted by the Port of Ayr. It was great to be able to go and meet people working in similar jobs again, and we were given a tour of the port in Ayr. They operate in a very different way to Mallaig – with mostly bulk cargos being loaded and unloaded. This included huge wind turbine blades when we visited – something we’ll never have the space for in Mallaig!

I then finished off the month talking to Board Members and staff of UHI about the Harbour’s development plans, and the potential for the proposed Marine Training Centre to support these plans. It’s always great to be an advocate for the marine training that goes on in Mallaig – there are so many people involved in marine industries around the Harbour who have started their training over at the Learning Centre, and so many other opportunities that could be available locally if there was a dedicated centre. Again, it comes down to space! If UHI’s plans come to fruition, the new centre would be in the area of the old Marine World – which is the first area you see as you come to the roundabout to enter Mallaig – and it would be great to see this redeveloped.

Jacqueline McDonell