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News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2019

By August 23, 2019News

The big news this month is, of course, Robert MacMillan’s retiral after 35 years. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a month with him ‘learning the ropes’ before he left, and on his last day, Friday 28th June, we had a small gathering in the Harbour Office, where he was serenaded by Audrey and Grace and their ‘Duelling Banjos’ before enjoying a few refreshments. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement Robert!

Good Luck to Greig Milligan of Milligan transport who has taken delivery of the ‘Vega De Lyra’, a 23 metre cargo / general workboat originally built in HAR Shipyard, Marin, Spain in 2009.

The ‘Vega De Lyra’ (Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra) is the fourth boat in the Milligan Transport fleet.

Following on from last month’s news of the ‘Safe Arrival’ bound for Greenland, we are pleased to report that Gabriel Clarke and James Stevenson landed safely at Nuuk in Greenland on the morning of 14th June after a stormy passage. All are safe and well.

The second Mallaig Marina Day took place on Saturday 8th June, and was once again blessed with good weather. As with last year, the lifeboat moored alongside the pontoon and was open to visitors, and Western Isles Cruises ran free RIB trips, while children were entertained by a bouncy castle and bucking bronco. The RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission also had stalls, including face painting.  Thanks to Pimmy, who did most of the organising, and to Ben Gunn and his crew who manned the barbecue!

This month has also seen the use of an ‘autonomous vessel’ (unmanned boat), which has been undertaking hydrographic surveys around the local coast. You can find more details of the vessel and how it operates at

Our Annual Report is published in June, and below are some extracts from this:

Fish Landings/Dues

Landing volumes and monetary values for the current year, the two previous years plus two other random years (for comparative purposes) are listed:

Volume in Tonnes
Year ended 31st MarchHerring Sprats/ Mackerel White fish Shellfish Total Value
1978 9,483 10,425 3,712 887 £7,640,036
1984 405 1,582 5,373 1,055 £5,195,726
2017 0 2037 885 1542 £9,644,837
2018 410 1375 566 1184 £7,642,865
2019 0 0 397 752 £4,746,544

Quayside prices were, once again, an improvement on the previous year as regards white fish landings but this increase was not replicated in the shellfish sector:-

Year end 31st March 2019    Whitefish  £1,927 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,296 per tonne

Year end 31st March 2017    Whitefish  £1,734 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,322 per tonne

The statistical table above illustrates just how poor the fishing is for vessels operating in the South Minch area.  The catch value in 2019 is less than the value of landings in 1984 – 35 years ago and 50% less than the catch value of 2017.  Shellfish landings and white fish landings are both down by approx. 50% so it’s an extremely worrying time for vessel owners attempting to keep their businesses financially viable.

As well as dwindling catches in the white fish and prawn sector there was to be no end of year financial boost for the local fishing fleet.  The normally reliable sprat fishery was a complete washout with no sprats landed whatsoever – another mystifying situation!


The amount of cars and passengers conveyed on the CalMac ferries based at Mallaig during the year – MV “Loch Bhrusda”; MV “Loch Fyne”; MV “Lochnevis”; and MV “Lord of The Isles” – indicates a downturn when compared to the previous year.  Whilst commercial vehicles and coaches are pretty much on a par with the 2018 figures passenger figures are down by 3.2% and cars by 6.1%:

1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018                  1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019

Passengers:                    343,847                       Passengers        :               332,944

Cars:                                  82,230                       Cars                      :                 77,181

Coaches:                          2,375                          Coaches              :                   2,367

Commercials:                 851                             Commercials     :                      825

It may seem surprising that figures are recessionary particularly as the Mallaig – Armadale route is the fifth most popular route as the CalMac network, but when you factor in the amount of disruption that occurred the summer of 2018 you begin to understand why reduced numbers are evident.

It has been well documented particularly by the Sleat Transport Forum that the number of cancellations for varying reasons in 2018 was in excess of 380 with a further 276 pre-cancelled services due to tidal issues.  This equates to massive disruption on the Skye Ferry Service.


Usage of the Marina, once again, showed a slight increase on the previous year but any major increase in usage is constrained by the size of the marina.


                        Occupancy      Short Stay                    Locals

2018                    1602                  54                                65

2017                    1547                  42                                65

2013                    1338                  81                                60

In addition to the above a further 48 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina – the moorings were fully utilized during the summer months.

The current membership of the Mallaig Harbour Authority is as listed below:

Charles King (Chairman)                               

Gavin Davis  (Vice Chair)               re-appointed April 2019

Robert MacMillan (CEO)               (Jacqueline McDonell from June 2019)

Michael Foxley                                                                                 

Allan Henderson                                                                                             

John MacMillan                                

James Wilson                                                                                                    

Jacqueline Wright

Lorna Spencer                   New Appointment April 2019   


Jacqueline McDonell, CEO

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