News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2020

By October 13, 2020News

September seems to have passed quickly – which is always a good sign! The Marina has continued to be busy throughout the month, although unfortunately we didn’t have enough space for the ‘Ngoni’ – which some of you might have seen passing into Loch Nevis on the 21st and 22nd September. For those of you who didn’t, ‘Ngoni’ is one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, at 190 feet (58 metres), with a 71metre high mast – so just a bit big for our wee pontoons! She was quite a sight though, and did send in a tender to offload some passengers in Mallaig.

The pandemic has meant that we haven’t been able to welcome back the ‘Eda Frandsen’ this summer, and she has now been sold by James and Chloe to new owners, Mungo and Stella. Mungo is originally from Ballachulish and Stella grew up on the Helford river. We look forward to welcoming them next year, when hopefully things will be a bit more ‘normal’! 

The month began with the arrival of the ‘Arwen’, the newest addition to the Western Isles fleet. ‘Arwen’ is an ex-Mersey class lifeboat, which has been re-painted and re-fitted by A.Noble and Sons, and will be used primarily for the transport of High School pupils to and from the Small Isles.

We then had the Taumar, a newly-built Norwegian well boat operating out of the Harbour for a fortnight, harvesting fish from Grieg Seafood sites on Skye.

On Saturday 26th September, we bade farewell to the ‘Aqua Senior’, which has been a regular fixture in the Harbour over the past few years, loading fish feed for EWOS / Cargill to be taken to sites around the West Coast. Ewos sent the ‘Ulla’ to do one loading in the following week. The ‘Ulla’ is bigger than the Aqua Senior, and loads on the opposite side, so it took a bit of juggling, but we managed!

We had another ‘virtual’ Board Meeting on 11th September, at which we approved the Annual Report and Accounts for the y/e 31st March 2020. As usual, the Annual Report highlighted some of the activity on the Harbour, and I have included some excerpts from it below.

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 MarchHerringSprats/ MackerelWhitefishShellfishTotal Value
19789,48310,4253,712887£7,640,036
19844051,5825,3731,055£5,195,726
201841013755661184£7,642,865
201900397752£4,746,544
20200121292683£4,480,546

Mallaig Harbour Ice:

In our first year of operation, we have sold 1,017 tonnes of ice, and the chart below shows the distribution of this by month. During August, September and October we supplied ice to MOWI, while they were awaiting their own new ice plant being commissioned.

Fish Feed

During the year ending March 2020, 45,043 tonnes of fish feed was shipped through Mallaig a 9% increase on the previous year.

CalMac/Tourism

The volume 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 an upturn when compared to the previous year, and more significantly, given the disruption in the y/end March 2019, also an upturn on figures for 2018.  Commercial vehicles are down on all three routes, while passengers were up 9.6%, cars up 15.4% and coaches up 4%.

Year end31 March 202031st March 201931st March 2018
Passengers365,164332,944343,847
Cars89,06977,18182,230
Coaches2,4642,3672,375
Commercials662825851

It is worth noting the increases on the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route in particular, where both passenger and car numbers were up over 38% on the previous year. This service is obviously becoming more established and well-used, but again suffers from the challenges facing CalMac with regard to their fleet, and the need for the Lord of The Isles to be redeployed to cover when other vessels on different routes are not operational for various reasons.

Previous years have noted the disruption to the services from Mallaig, and 2019 was no exception, with 54 days of tidal restrictions leading to over 200 scheduled cancelations, and 177 cancelled sailings for April – September 2019, with a further 84 in October. The unreliability of the timetable makes it less attractive for commercial vehicles, and for much of the summer, the Mallaig-Armadale route operates at capacity, making further growth without a dedicated vessel extremely challenging.

March 2020 saw the introduction of a three-year pilot of additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale, utilising the ‘Loch Bhrusda’. These were timetabled from the 6th March until the Summer timetable was due to start on 27th March, and were initially well utilised. Unfortunately, restrictions on travel imposed with ‘lockdown’ associated with the Coronavirus mean that the first year of this trial will not be representative.

Developments

West Bay Road Access: After procurement, the contract for the West Bay Road Access was awarded to Fion Construction, and work started on 22nd August, continuing until the end October.

Energy Efficiency: Resource Efficient Scotland undertook an energy survey of the Harbour, and produced a report highlighting potential energy saving measures that could be implemented, some of which would attract an interest free loan. Quotes are being sourced for LED lighting throughout the Harbour, and consideration is being given to other energy saving measures to be incorporated into any future developments.

Renunciation of Denholms Office and Ice Factory: In December the renunciation of the leases for the empty office upstairs in the Harbour Buildings and the old Ice Factory was completed. Plans have been drawn up to convert the office into three smaller offices, and provide welfare facilities for those using the building. The old Ice Factory provides an opportunity to create more industrial space quayside, and to potentially provide new workspace for Harbour Authority staff, but these options need to be investigated further. 

Re-facing of the ‘Splay Berth’

Work started to remove all the metal rubbing strips from the piling on the ‘Splay Berth’ (which is mainly used by the Loch Nevis), to re-galvanise and replace these. Whilst most of the work was undertaken prior to the financial year end, and the berth has been left safe to use, Coronavirus restrictions meant that this work is not complete, and will be a priority when restrictions are lifted.

Future Developments

I mentioned last month the proposals to develop more space in the Outer Harbour, which will be discussed at a public meeting on 5th November. I have included a drawing of the proposed development, which is effectively designed to fill in the ‘corner’ in the outer breakwater.

The public meeting will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to consider and comment upon the prospective application. Full details on how to join the event will be displayed at https://www.mallaig-harbour.com/news/ , 10 days prior to the event. If you wish to be emailed event details, please contact:  consultation@affriclimited.co.uk. If, having seen the proposals, you wish to make representations on the proposed development, please contact: Fiona Henderson, Affric Limited, Lochview Office, Loch Duntelchaig, Farr, IV2 6AW, consultation@affriclimited.co.uk by the 12th of November 2020.

 Jacqueline McDonell

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