November felt like a busy month, with quite a lot going on behind the scenes. More visibly, the Sprat pump was installed on 10th November and there were regular landings of Sprats by the Caralisa throughout the month, starting on the 13th November. It always creates a wee buzz at this time of year having Sprats landed on the pier, so let’s hope it continues for a few more weeks.
On 7th November, Board Member David MacDonald and I attended the British Ports Association and Scottish Chamber of Shipping Parliamentary Reception at Holyrood. It was great to meet with others in the industry, and to hear some of the wider picture of what is happening at various ports. We also got a tour round the parliamentary chamber, courtesy of Kevin Stewart MSP, and even the opportunity to sit in the First Minister’s Chair! Part of the event was to celebrate the launch of a new document, ‘Scottish Ports – Gateways for Growth 2023, which has been produced in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. For those who are interested, you can download it from the British Ports Association website, www.britishports.org.uk
We have commissioned the Economic Impact Assessment, and MKA Economics are in the process of contacting some of the key stakeholders around the Harbour. They were in Mallaig for a couple of days from the 6th to the 8th December meeting stakeholders and gaining an understanding of the Harbour workings, and the intention is that the final report will be ready to be discussed at our Board Meeting in February, before being published more widely.
On Wednesday 16th November, we attended a public engagement event hosted by CMAL on the plans for the replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles. The team had been in Lochboisdale and then hosted an event in the Mallaig and Morar Community Centre. The presentation is on the CMAL website, https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/mallaig-lochboisdale/, and shows the proposals for the vessel, which would be built recognising the constraints of operating into the existing linkspan in Mallaig. It’s proposed that the vessel would be a similar size to the Lord of The Isles, and would be designed to carry 300 passengers, 52 cars and 7 HGVs. Feedback closed on the 30th November, but there will be further opportunities to have your say in the New Year.
At the end of November, Karen Calder stepped down from her role with the Fishermen’s Mission, ready to take up a new role at Mallaig Pool and Leisure. Karen has worked hard for the Fishermen of the area, and their families when necessary, and will be a big miss to the wider Harbour community. Our loss is the Pool’s gain, and we all wish her the very best with the new challenges that lie ahead for her.
We’ve been working with UHI North West and Highlands to try and progress the project to build a new Marine Training Centre on the site of the old Marine World as you come onto the Harbour. This project has been talked about for a long time, and has evolved to hopefully include a centre for off-grid renewables excellence. UHI have been looking at various funding options to progress the project, and recently submitted an application through The Highland Council to the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund Scheme. A decision on the funding will be made in January or February next year.
Scottish Sea Farms have restocked some of the cages in Loch Nevis, and planning to operate slightly differently, leaving their main vessels at the farms, rather than in the Harbour. To do this, they have bought a new crew transfer vessel, which arrived in Mallaig for the first time on 30th November.
We were alerted to a fire on Lovat Beach on Sunday 3rd December, the result of some local children setting fire to a tyre under the wooden platform in the centre of the village. Thankfully the Lifeboat Coxwain was passing and was able to drag the tyre out from beneath the platform so that no damage was done to the structure. At the time, the Fire Brigade were off service, so when it was reported to them, they were slower in being able to respond than they would have liked. Had it not been for members of the public and of the other emergency services such as the Lifeboat acting quickly, this could have been a very serious incident. We would ask that parents please remind their children that starting fires is dangerous – regardless of how cold it is, and that they need to have respect for the public areas around the village. Children and their parents should also be aware that we have CCTV around the Harbour so we are able to look back and see what has gone on over the weekend, even when we are not in the office. We have written to the parents of those concerned and would hope that this is an isolated incident.
Mallaig Community Council once again hosted the Christmas Tree Lights switch on, on the afternoon of Friday 1st December. As usual the Harbour staff helped with installing the Christmas lights and getting the Christmas Tree in place in the run up to the switch-on. We’re always grateful to the staff who are prepared to go beyond their normal roles to help with community activities such as this. It was a team effort, even if Audrey had to relinquish her normal role in the proceedings on the afternoon of Tuesday 28th November, for the very positive reason that she became a Granny again! Congratulations to Ross McKay and Helen Webb (who is also one of the Harbour’s Board Members) on the birth of David John McKay, at a very healthy 9lb 9oz!
Finally, we’d like to wish all Harbour users, and the wider community, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.