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News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2021

By December 21, 2021News

Although we were hopeful at the end of last month that the Sprat pump was in place, to date it has not been needed – no Sprats have been landed, and the Caralisa has taken off their Sprat gear and gone back to the prawns for now. This is disappointing as a good Sprat fishery always gives a wee boost at the end of the year, and a bit of obvious activity on the Harbour, which we are missing.

We had ‘battened down the hatches’ in advance of the storm forecast for Friday 26th November – the school children had all been sent home early (ironically on the Western Isles boat ‘Arwen’, given that was the name of the storm), and the vessels had all been moved around the Harbour and pontoons to provide as much shelter as possible. In the end, although it was pretty stormy for a time, we didn’t have it nearly as bad as the East Coast, and we are pleased to report no damage was sustained anywhere within the Harbour.

The works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings are ongoing, but they are really starting to take shape now. There has been a bit of disruption as we are taking the chance to upgrade some of the other facilities, so we have been without a ladies’ room for the last week or so – thankfully the gents have been very gracious about sharing with us!! We’re all telling ourselves that the long term benefits will be worth the short term upheaval!

I attended a virtual meeting of the Northern Lighthouse Board Users Group at the beginning of the month, and one of the topics for discussion was the replacement of one of their vessels, and how this might be powered in the future. This was timely as there was lots of discussion around COP-26 about the development of Hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and Hydrogen is certainly one of the options for vessels. The International Maritime Organisation aims to make shipping ‘net-zero’ for carbon emissions by 2050. Although this seems like a long way off, any vessels built by 2030 are likely to still be sailing in 2050, so the transition has to start soon! It’s interesting how quickly the world can change – in 2016 when we published our Masterplan, there was very limited discussion about alternative ways of fuelling vessels, and what infrastructure this might require. However, this has to be very much at the forefront of any development plans now. COP-26, although it might have felt quite remote to Mallaig, has encouraged us to put some thought into future options for reducing the carbon footprint of the Harbour and our wider users.  We have started this process in a small way with the installation of the LED lights, and the shore power points, and I’m glad to say that the upgrade to our power supply mentioned last month is complete and we now have sufficient capacity for all the shore power points to be operational. We’re really grateful to HF Group who have been very helpful throughout the process, and who worked alongside SSE to ensure everything went smoothly.  

I mentioned last month the plans for the Coruisk to return to Mallaig next season. At the moment, there is still no clarity on this, and the proposed timetables are not due to be published until mid-January. This is causing concern for Tourism businesses locally and on Skye, who are fearful that the uncertainty will lead to reduces business, especially from coach parties who like to book well in advance. At the moment, it looks like the season will start with the Loch Bhrusda and Loch Fyne covering the Mallaig/Armadale run, and the Lord of The Isles only sailing between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, but with two sailings a day on three days of the week, allowing those travelling from Lochboisdale to the mainland to make a ‘day trip’. There will be some challenges for us as a Harbour in accommodating all these vessels, so we are looking at options for some minor works that can be done to improve berthing and marshalling space in the short term.

We had another visit from the Screen Machine on the 3rd and 4th December. One of the films shown was ‘Launch! – On the Seas with Scotland’s Lifeboats’. Directed by award-winning curator Shona Thomson, the film has been two years in the making with unprecedented access to the RNLI’s own archives. 1920s film is woven with 1960s colour promos and breath-taking digital video captured by RNLI crews’ 21st century helmet cameras whilst out on the wild sea. Launch! celebrates the dedication of Scotland’s volunteer crews and the communities that support them. If you didn’t get the chance to watch it in Mallaig, you can find out more information on the website, https://launchonthesea.com/.

Finally, I’d like to thank the Harbour staff who have once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas decorations, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes!

Jacqueline McDonell

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