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 https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/9031/Uig-Harbour-Upgrades—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.