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.