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 www.xocean.com.
Our Annual Report is published in June, and below are some extracts from this:
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 March||Herring||Sprats/ Mackerel||White fish||Shellfish||Total Value|
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)
Lorna Spencer New Appointment April 2019
Jacqueline McDonell, CEO