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News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2024

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It’s been another mixed month of weather, with not much activity for the fishing boats, although this week is looking more promising, and as I am writing this we have quite a few ice orders in for boats hoping to head out to sea. We’re also expecting the first of the landings from visiting Irish boats in the next couple of weeks, which will boost the landings figures!

Our meeting room was used to host a meeting chaired by the Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG) on Thursday 15th February. Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups aim ‘to improve the sustainable management of inshore fisheries and to give commercial inshore fishers a voice in wider marine management developments.’ A new structure for RIFGs was established in January 2023, and Marine Scotland is now consulting on their impact, remit and organisation, as well as options for the future. The survey is open until 30th April 2024, and should take around 15 minutes to complete. If you have an interest in the inshore fishing industry, then please take some time to complete it. You can access it from this link https://t.co/YMdYd46jMH .

We’ve had a draft of the Economic Impact Assessment, which has provided some good information, and we’re grateful to those who gave their time to input to the study. As a Board, we have decided to commission some case studies to sit alongside the main document, and these will be ready by the end of March. Headline figures from the report are that Mallaig Harbour contributes to 200FTE jobs in the local area, generating a turnover of £30.94 million for the businesses and organisations using the Harbour, and a total GVA of £12.03 million locally. We know that these figures don’t necessarily mean much in isolation, and this is where the case studies will help to present a better and easier to understand picture of the impact associated with the Harbour.

The 200FTEs noted in the Economic Impact Assessment included 27 employed by MOWI at the Harvest Station, and some of you will have heard locally that this number is under review. MOWI is currently reviewing its overall salmon harvesting procedures, which will affect staff requirements in the Harvest Station in Mallaig, and the company is going through a consultation process with those staff who will be affected. This process is ongoing so the details of what this will mean for the Harvest Station, and for operations through the Harbour more generally are not yet known.

We have issued the tender documentation for the Overnight ferry berth this month, with the aim of having everything in place to start construction in the Autumn. CMAL have published a question and answer document relating to the replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles, and this is available on their website, https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/mallaig-lochboisdale/. Transport Scotland have also published their Islands Connectivity Plan Strategic Approach, which sets out a long term vision for how ferry services, supported by other transport links, will be delivered and improved in the future. As part of this, a consultation is open on the Vessels and Ports Plan. This consultation is open until 3rd May, and is available on Transport Scotland’s website, www.transport.gov.scot, and search for ‘Islands Connectivity Plan’. The Vessels and Ports Plan makes very little reference to Mallaig, and the works needed to ensure the Harbour infrastructure is fit for new vessels as these are built. It does make reference to ‘Additional developments’, which include the Small Vessel Replacement Programme Phase 2, which is where any replacement vessels for Mallaig-Armadale would come in, and to the Small Isles vessel replacement project and associated works, but doesn’t specify what these might be. It goes on to give a bit more detail on the Small Isles replacement, which it is hoped would be in place before 2030/31. This seems like a long time away, but consultation will have to start soon to achieve this. CalMac’s difficulties continue, with increased works identified for the MV Coruisk, MV Caledonian Isles and MV Isle of Mull during their annual overhaul periods. This, combined with the ‘Route Prioritisation Framework’ published in 2023, means that it’s possible that the MV Coruisk may have to be deployed elsewhere in the network rather that on the Mallaig-Armadale route for the start of the summer season. Nothing has been confirmed as yet, although CalMac hope to publish amended timetables on 5th March.

In more positive news, I was invited to attend the launch of ‘Mallaig Clean’ up at Mallaig Primary school on Monday 26th February. The Eco-Group children and their teachers and some parents have worked really hard to establish ‘Mallaig Clean’, to help make Mallaig ‘a clean and green town that everyone can enjoy and be proud of’. I’m sure you will be able to read more about their efforts elsewhere in West Word. I was also invited to go back and talk to the children about Marine Litter in particular at their Friday assembly. The children had loads of good questions for me about marine litter, and were able to share lots of information about the damage it does to our environment. We’re hoping to be able to work with the Scottish Islands Federation to remove some more marine litter from the Small Isles and Skye this year and recycle it into something useful so hopefully we can continue to work with the school and ‘Mallaig Clean’ into the future. It was really great to see how enthusiastic and knowledgeable the children were. They can’t clean all of Mallaig on their own though, so there is a section of the website for anyone who wants to volunteer to help!  

Our new Deputy Harbour Master came and spent an afternoon with us on 16th February, and he hopes to start officially on Tuesday 26th March. He’s currently based in Glasgow, and has previously lectured at the Nautical College as well as serving at sea. There’s a lot to learn so he will be working alongside Pimmy for the first few months to understand how everything operates. We’ll introduce him more fully next month!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2024

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The Sprat pump has been dismantled and removed for another year. There were some landings of Sprats the first week the boats were back at sea after New Year, but only for a few days. Since then, it seems like it has been endless gales, with very little opportunity for the boats to be at sea in January. That is, apart from the few days of snow we had! The beginning of January also saw the sale of the Rebecca Jeneen, which will be a loss to the fishing industry locally. Looking at the figures from last year, which incorporate all species landed through Mallaig, 2023 was on a par with 2022, 2019 and 2018.

Some of you may have seen the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s publicity around their ‘Pride in the Seas’ exhibition, which features accounts and portraits from 12 advocates for the Scottish Fishing industry, including two from Mallaig, Willie-John McLean and Erin MacKenzie. As well as a social media campaign, the portraits are due to be exhibited at the Scottish Parliament later in the year. You can find more details on their website, www.sff.co.uk.

It’s been another one of those months with a lot going on in the background, but not much visible progress yet. MKA Economics have been working on the Economic Impact Assessment, and will present their findings to our Board on Friday 9th February. We have to say thanks to all the local businesses and organisations who took some time to answer Mark and Leeanne’s questions about how they interacted with the Harbour and what the constraints and opportunities are associated with the Harbour as it stands. It’s been an interesting exercise to go through, not least in the context of a reducing population for Mallaig over the last 20 years. Hopefully we will be able to share the headline findings next month.

We’ve also been working with CMAL and CalMac to look at the detailed design for the overnight ferry berth, and the implications of the replacement for the Lord of the Isles on the existing infrastructure in Mallaig. The Marine Licences we have allow us to undertake works in the Outer Harbour until March 2026, but we’re aware that building an overnight berth for the ferries will have to be done while the winter ferry timetable is in place, so we are lining everything up to enable us to do this at the end of the year.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2024

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Happy New Year everyone! After a relatively calm period at the start of December, the wind and rain returned for the end of the month. Thankfully, we weren’t hit as badly as some other parts of the country by Storm Gerrit, but it was still wild enough to mean that we had a full Harbour over Christmas, with boats sheltering from the worst of the weather.

We welcomed the New Year again this year with another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander from the end of the Outer Breakwater. There were a couple of test fireworks at 8pm and 10pm, then a full display at midnight, again supplemented fireworks from the other side of the bay, organised by some local residents. It’s becoming quite a tradition, and not even the rain that had come on by midnight seemed to dampen this year’s display!

The month started with us welcoming two new vessels to the Harbour. Scottish Sea Farms new crew transfer vessel, the Bo-Ruag, which was built and designed by Flugga Boats in Shetland arrived first (actually at the end of November). She’s fully enclosed and intended to make the transfer from Mallaig to the sites in Loch Nevis safer, faster and more comfortable for the staff. Meanwhile, Western Isles Cruises new Red Bay RIB, ‘The Bigger Dipper’ arrived in Mallaig on 5th December, designed to take over from the Arwen in carrying the school pupils to the small isles, as well as undertaking other charter work.

Landings of Sprats continued throughout December, with the Caralisa once again the only vessel fishing for Sprats. It’s been good to see the activity, even if it meant that Caralisa Fresh Prawns and Fish wasn’t able to supply prawns for Christmas dinners this year! The pump is still in-situ, ready to see what the start of January brings.

As I mentioned last month, we have commissioned MKA Economics to undertake an Economic Impact Assessment, and they were in Mallaig for a few days at the start of December to meet with some of the key stakeholders. It was an interesting process for me, running through the history of the Masterplan and the developments to date taught me that I assume people know much more than they do about our plans! Although our ultimate aim as a Harbour Board is still to be able to build a new North Breakwater and relocate the ferry operations to this area, we are realistic about when we might be able to achieve this. In the meantime, we will continue to try and move forward with smaller projects for the benefit of those using the Harbour. Some of these are pretty straightforward, but some, like the new berths and dredging in the Outer Harbour will still require significant investment, and we are hopeful that the Economic Impact Assessment will give us the evidence we need to secure the grants required to make these projects a reality. When we published the Masterplan, the Outline Business Case that accompanied it had a resident population for Mallaig of about 900. As of 2011, 442 residents were recorded as being in employment, and Mallaig Harbour was the main employer, supporting approximately 200FTE jobs. Given the publicity recently about the reduction in the population in Mallaig of 18% between 2003 and 2020, and the changes in the fishing industry during this period, it will be good to revisit this, and have more up to date figures. The population reduction, to 680 in 2021, seems slightly surprising to me, and some of you may have seen me on BBC Alba earlier in the month talking about this along with Michael Currie and Dawn MacPhie. 

You may have also seen that the public consultation for the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS3) opened on 15th December, and runs until 8th March 2024. Scottish Minister’s preferred option would be a direct award of the new contract rather than a competitive bidding process. This would be subject to satisfactory due diligence being undertaken. The consultation is an opportunity for those who have asked for change to contribute and help the Scottish Government shape the future of these ferry services, which are vital to our islands. You can access the consultation from Transport Scotland’s website, www.transport.gov.scot/consultations/

Still on ferries, the two new vessels being built in Turkey to serve on the Little Minch Routes (between Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert) have been named MV Claymore and MV Lochmor after a public vote on a shortlist of eight names. Having started my working life commuting from Mallaig to Eigg on the original Lochmor, you can guess where my vote went! These two vessels are due to be delivered to CMAL in 2025, and will have capacity for 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles. These are two of the six larger vessels being replaced at the moment, and CMAL also hope to start the process of replacing the smaller vessels in 2024, beginning with seven of the ‘Loch’ class vessels in the first phase. New vessels for Mallaig would come in the second phase of this small vessel replacement programme. 

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2023

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November felt like a busy month, with quite a lot going on behind the scenes. More visibly, the Sprat pump was installed on 10th November and there were regular landings of Sprats by the Caralisa throughout the month, starting on the 13th November. It always creates a wee buzz at this time of year having Sprats landed on the pier, so let’s hope it continues for a few more weeks.

On 7th November, Board Member David MacDonald and I attended the British Ports Association and Scottish Chamber of Shipping Parliamentary Reception at Holyrood. It was great to meet with others in the industry, and to hear some of the wider picture of what is happening at various ports. We also got a tour round the parliamentary chamber, courtesy of Kevin Stewart MSP, and even the opportunity to sit in the First Minister’s Chair! Part of the event was to celebrate the launch of a new document, ‘Scottish Ports – Gateways for Growth 2023, which has been produced in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. For those who are interested, you can download it from the British Ports Association website, www.britishports.org.uk 

We have commissioned the Economic Impact Assessment, and MKA Economics are in the process of contacting some of the key stakeholders around the Harbour. They were in Mallaig for a couple of days from the 6th to the 8th December meeting stakeholders and gaining an understanding of the Harbour workings, and the intention is that the final report will be ready to be discussed at our Board Meeting in February, before being published more widely.

On Wednesday 16th November, we attended a public engagement event hosted by CMAL on the plans for the replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles. The team had been in Lochboisdale and then hosted an event in the Mallaig and Morar Community Centre. The presentation is on the CMAL website, https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/mallaig-lochboisdale/, and shows the proposals for the vessel, which would be built recognising the constraints of operating into the existing linkspan in Mallaig.  It’s proposed that the vessel would be a similar size to the Lord of The Isles, and would be designed to carry 300 passengers, 52 cars and 7 HGVs. Feedback closed on the 30th November, but there will be further opportunities to have your say in the New Year.

At the end of November, Karen Calder stepped down from her role with the Fishermen’s Mission, ready to take up a new role at Mallaig Pool and Leisure. Karen has worked hard for the Fishermen of the area, and their families when necessary, and will be a big miss to the wider Harbour community. Our loss is the Pool’s gain, and we all wish her the very best with the new challenges that lie ahead for her.

We’ve been working with UHI North West and Highlands to try and progress the project to build a new Marine Training Centre on the site of the old Marine World as you come onto the Harbour. This project has been talked about for a long time, and has evolved to hopefully include a centre for off-grid renewables excellence. UHI have been looking at various funding options to progress the project, and recently submitted an application through The Highland Council to the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund Scheme. A decision on the funding will be made in January or February next year.

Scottish Sea Farms have restocked some of the cages in Loch Nevis, and planning to operate slightly differently, leaving their main vessels at the farms, rather than in the Harbour. To do this, they have bought a new crew transfer vessel, which arrived in Mallaig for the first time on 30th November.

We were alerted to a fire on Lovat Beach on Sunday 3rd December, the result of some local children setting fire to a tyre under the wooden platform in the centre of the village. Thankfully the Lifeboat Coxwain was passing and was able to drag the tyre out from beneath the platform so that no damage was done to the structure. At the time, the Fire Brigade were off service, so when it was reported to them, they were slower in being able to respond than they would have liked. Had it not been for members of the public and of the other emergency services such as the Lifeboat acting quickly, this could have been a very serious incident. We would ask that parents please remind their children that starting fires is dangerous – regardless of how cold it is, and that they need to have respect for the public areas around the village. Children and their parents should also be aware that we have CCTV around the Harbour so we are able to look back and see what has gone on over the weekend, even when we are not in the office. We have written to the parents of those concerned and would hope that this is an isolated incident.

Mallaig Community Council once again hosted the Christmas Tree Lights switch on, on the afternoon of Friday 1st December. As usual the Harbour staff helped with installing the Christmas lights and getting the Christmas Tree in place in the run up to the switch-on. We’re always grateful to the staff who are prepared to go beyond their normal roles to help with community activities such as this. It was a team effort, even if Audrey had to relinquish her normal role in the proceedings on the afternoon of Tuesday 28th November, for the very positive reason that she became a Granny again! Congratulations to Ross McKay and Helen Webb (who is also one of the Harbour’s Board Members) on the birth of David John McKay, at a very healthy 9lb 9oz!

Finally, we’d like to wish all Harbour users, and the wider community, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2023

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It’s the beginning of November, and after some remarkably good weather compared to the rest of the country, it feels like Winter has arrived! We are hosting the Screen Machine once again, and some of you may have already seen their plea for support for their request for financial assistance from the Scottish Government to keep the Screen Machine in operation. We have written a letter from Mallaig Harbour Authority, as the host for the Screen Machine in Mallaig, in support of this request. If you enjoy their visits to Mallaig, there is still time for you to do the same.

The Harbour always feels much quieter when the winter CalMac timetable starts, and this year is no exception. The Lord of The Isles was sailing to Mallaig this week, but is then off for her annual refit, and won’t be back until the end of November. We’ve received the Design Statement for the proposed overnight berth from our Engineers, Wallace Stone, so we have a bit of work to do over the winter to make sure it suits all the different needs, and then to persuade Transport Scotland of the benefit of funding it!

It’s the time of year when Marine Scotland publish their annual landings data for the year. The headline figures for the Mallaig District this year were that 1,385 tonnes were landed, with a value of £5,935,000. This was an increase in value of 22.8%, the second highest of any Scottish District, and a very slight decrease in tonnage of 0.4%.

It’s worth noting that these figures from Marine Scotland are for the Mallaig District, and not just the port. The district covers the whole of Ardnamurchan, the Small Isles and the North Shore of Loch Linnhe to Fort William, so not all the fish included in these figures was landed into Mallaig. However, we are always asked to comment on these headline numbers, so we do a bit of our own analysis. Our records of reported landings from the vessels through Mallaig, which are by financial year rather than calendar year, actually showed an increase in the quantity of landings between the y/e March 2022 and 2023 of 40%, from 522,215kg to 733,829kg. From this, it’s evident that only around half the landings into the District are actually made through Mallaig.

From our figures, average shellfish prices increased by 36.25% between 2021/22 and 2022/23, while average white fish prices decreased by 33%. The total value of landings through Mallaig increased from £2.4million in 2021/22 to £4.8million in 2022/23, an increase of 100%.

Once again, Peterhead topped the landings tables, with 154,883 tonnes landed, worth £191,060,000. I was through in Peterhead for the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group meeting on the 5th and 6th October, and we were given a tour of the Peterhead fish market while the market was in progress on the Friday morning. It’s on a different scale altogether from Mallaig, as you will see from the photos.  The whole port is on a different scale – but it’s always good to go and see other Ports and to have the chance to discuss common issues. The scale of operations at various ports might vary significantly, but many of the challenges are similar. 

The Marina is now closed for the season, and Gena has finished for the Winter. As some of you will know, Chris Jones has been off for a period. We’re looking forward to having him back in the next week or so, but we’re also very grateful to Gena for holding the fort in his absence, and to Kenny Harris, Ross Carr and Ruairidh McDonell who all stepped in to help keep the Marina running smoothly at various times over the summer. Looking at the figures for the year this was our busiest season since the Marina opened, with 1,857 nights occupied by visiting boats over the season, as well as a number of regular charters operating from Mallaig.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2023

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Autumn is definitely in the air, and although we missed out on the worst of the weather associated with storm Agnes, the unsettled weather has meant that the boats have been tied up for most of the last week, and the harbour has been busy with fish farm vessels seeking shelter too. There have been a couple of unusual weather incidents this month. On Tuesday 12th into Wednesday 13th September, the Northern Lights put on quite a show above the village, so much so that our CCTV in the Marina was even able to capture them through the glare of the streetlights. On Thursday 28th, I looked up from my desk to see the most unusual sun. I know you shouldn’t look at the sun directly, but it took me a minute to decide whether it was actually the sun or the moon!  Apparently, it was due to the smoke from wildfires in America.

The Marina has quietened down considerably, although there are still occasional yachts calling in on their way South. We have had a busy season, and for the first two weeks in September 55 vessels used the pontoon, compared to 39 in 2022. On Wednesday 27th September, the students from the Marine Training Centre were taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get a bit of practical experience in using the RIB when we got a call at the Harbour office from a yacht making for the Marina who had engine trouble. The students got to experience a real life scenario when their tutor kindly agreed to take them out and escort the yacht into the harbour, eventually towing it as there wasn’t enough wind for it to make steady progress.

We have had a fair bit of interest in the Deputy Harbour Master post. The closing date is not until 27th October, to allow for the October holidays, so there is still a bit of time for anyone with an interest to submit an application. All the information on the post, including how to apply, is on our website or in an advert in WestWord.

We had an oil spill response exercise on 20th September.  Briggs Marine, who provide support services to us in the event of an oil spill, were on site to go through a scenario with us. The exercise tested all aspects of our response, from the co-ordination to the practical application of the training the staff have in how to contain and clean up an oil spill. The Loch Bhrusda was used as the ‘casualty’, with booms floated around her in the berth in the Outer Harbour, and a demonstration of an oil skimmer. As well as our own staff, we had representatives from the MCA, and staff from Denholms, CalMac and Scottish Seafarms who attended to provide support and learn about what to do in a real incident. We’re always grateful when the other businesses who use the Harbour work with us to supplement our small team of staff! 

The Loch Nevis has been away for her annual refit, and is due to return on the 30th September, while the Loch Fyne attempted to leave us for the season on 29th September but had to turn back due to the stormy weather. The intention was that from Saturday 30th September until 19th October, the Loch Bhrusda would be operating alongside the Coruisk to Skye. However, issues elsewhere in the network now mean that the Coruisk will be the only vessel on the Skye run, until she leaves on 19th October. This means that from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd October, there will be no vehicle service to Skye – a passenger service will be operated by the Larven. The Winter timetable then starts on Monday 23rd October. It seems incredible that this is less than a month away!

Finally, huge congratulations to Mallaig FC, who have already won the West Highland Amateur Football’s William Wilson League; and the Ross Cup. They were on for the treble if they had been able to beat North West Skye on 30th September in Portree – unfortunately, this wasn’t to be, despite us all having our fingers crossed for them at the Harbour! They’ve had a great season once again, and we’re proud that our sponsorship plays a small part in their success.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: September 2023

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August seems to have passed in a flash, and we are already into September! It has felt like a very quick month with not much of note to report. The yachting season is drawing to an end, although the good weather in the first week of September has given the Marina a wee boost. Both the Blue Clipper and the Eda Frandsen will have finished their season in Mallaig by the time you read this, which is always a sign for us in the Harbour that summer is over!

The Harbour was the setting for the Maritime day on Sunday 13th August, to raise funds for the Mallaig RNLI and RNMDSF (Fishermen’s Mission). Although the weather wasn’t great on the day, it was dry for a few hours, and it seemed to be just enough to encourage everyone to come and spend their money. It was nice to see the Gala Day back on the Harbour, albeit in a smaller format than previous years. The Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District (MaaD) Pipe Band opened proceedings, and then played to welcome the Steam Train into Mallaig, so that encouraged some of the visitors to the area onto the Harbour to spend their money! The pipe band are back to regular Monday evening practices now that the schools are back in, and while the weather is good, they are hoping to do these on the bandstand, so listen out for them!

We are always a bit behind by the time we collate all fishing landing information, but the visiting fishing vessels continued into July, and as for last year, the value of landings for the month of July was over £1million, which is positive news for both the Harbour and the fleet!

The work at Eigg to remove rock from the approach to the ferry berth took much longer than first anticipated, so the Wyre Estuary was berthing overnight in the Harbour for the whole month of August, rather than the fortnight that they had planned for. This should hopefully mean the end of tidal sailings for the Loch Nevis – but she is away for her annual overhaul at the moment, so the Loch Bhrusda and the Larven are covering. We lost both the Coruisk and the Loch Bhrusda for a few days at the end of August – the Coruisk to Oban for the Mull run and the Loch Bhrusda to Berneray for the Sound of Harris run. Both have now returned to Mallaig.   

August is also the month when parking invoices / permits are issued. Because we have been a bit short staffed, we haven’t managed to issue these yet, but we will be sending out terms and conditions along with the permits this year. We know that parking is a nightmare in the village, but it’s equally a nightmare for us when people park randomly on the Harbour. During the winter months, when it’s quieter, we try to be more lenient with this, but there seems to have been a steady stream of parking issues over the last few weeks. Please don’t park in a space unless you have either a permit to be in that space, or express permission from the permit holder. We have three visitor spaces behind the prawn market, which are intended for visitors to the Harbour Office, or contractors we have working for us. We don’t mind if these are empty and someone uses them to nip to the shop – especially outwith office hours, but many of the issues that have arisen lately are because these are being used as unofficial parking spaces. We’ve also noticed people using Scottish Seafarms spaces (alongside their office and in the area adjacent to our workshop). Scottish Seafarms staff are now back working in Mallaig, and need these spaces again so if you have been sneakily using one of these, then please don’t! It’s always a challenge in the summer months, and easier in the winter, so many of these issues will be resolved in the next few weeks when things quieten down, but I thought it was worth just reminding everyone. We’d love to be able to accommodate all those who ask for spaces, but it’s just not possible, and at the moment we have a waiting list of over 30 people for the spaces we do have.

We’re still working away in the background on developments for the Outer Harbour, including the new overnight ferry berth, and ways of achieving some of the other projects we had hoped to do if our funding application had been successful. We’re hoping to undertake an economic impact assessment over the next couple of months, which will enable us to make our case more strongly with funders. This will require the successful consultant to consult with some of our key stakeholders, including the communities served by the harbour. We hope to have this done over the winter months, when people have a bit more time to contribute.

Finally this month, we have an advert placed in West Word and in our vacancy page on this web-site for a Deputy Harbour Master. We are hoping to recruit someone who will be able to work alongside our existing Harbour Master, Pimmy, with a view to becoming Harbour Master at some point in the future. We realise that Pimmy’s shoes are going to be big shoes to fill when the time does eventually come, but there’s a lot of knowledge to be shared, so we thought we should start the search for a successor!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: August 2023

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Thankfully the weather did hold for the Marina Fun Day, even although the Bucking Bronco unfortunately cancelled on the morning of the event because the forecast wasn’t looking good. Feedback was that the day was enjoyed by everyone who attended, and I have to say a special thanks to Pimmy and Audrey who as usual were behind the scenes making sure everything went smoothly. Thanks are also due to Nevis Estates who provided refreshments for the day; to Andy and Rose, Ross and Helen who helped with the barbecue throughout the day; to Allan MacKenzie for piping and to those from the RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission who manned the stalls and provided entertainment for the younger ones.

The Marina has had a busy season so far. For the first four weeks in July we had 455 berth nights occupied, which compares well to last year’s total of 454 for the whole month, and even to 2019’s total of 498 for the month. We are seeing a trend of larger vessels, which reduces the capacity of the marina, and regular visits from the Pellew, Eda Frandsen and Selkie mean that the hammerheads are also well used. Pellew has now left us for the season, but Eda Frandsen is with us until 11th September. We have also welcomed back the Blue Clipper this month, who along with Provident is using the Harbour as both are too heavy for the pontoons.  Last month I mentioned we were a member of staff down on the Harbour. Hugh is still off, and Chris has also had to take time off from the Marina this month, so we have been juggling staffing a bit. Ross and Gena have been holding the fort in Chris’ absence, joined by Ruairidh, who came home from college for a break and was landed straight in at the deep end! We are really appreciative of our staff who step up to keep things operating as normal regardless of what is thrown at them!  

Fishing has also remained steady throughout the month, with reasonable catches being landed by our local and some visiting boats. This has mainly been shellfish, and very limited quantities of white fish. After the really low landings of 2020 and 2021, it’s great to see them picking up a bit – although I realise that it’s all relative, and that the landings being made are much lower than even 10 years ago!

We said goodbye to the Reul a’Chuain this month, as her new owner, Justin, sailed off to start the boat’s next chapter after spending several months working on her in the Harbour.

We met with Kate Forbes on 17th July to talk through our plans for the Harbour and look at alternative funding options and how to progress with the project. Kate also took the opportunity to meet with some of the local fisherman to talk through their concerns about HPMA’s and to listen to their thoughts on what any replacement proposals should consider.

We also had a debrief with the Scottish Islands Federation and others who were involved in the Marine Litter Pilot, which resulted in ropes and nets from the Small Isles and Skye being taken for recycling by Ocean Plastic Pots, supported by Keep Britain Tidy. We all agreed that the initiative had worked well, and can hopefully be repeated again next year.

Some of you will have noticed accommodation cabins have arrived in the West Bay car park in the first week of August. These have been brought up by Wyre Marine Services, who have the contract to remove rock off the harbour in Eigg, which has been causing a disruption to ferry services. The work is due to take two weeks, and the cabins have been brought in for crew accommodation, as they weren’t able to secure alternative accommodation locally.

Finally, the Mallaig branches of the RNLI and Fishermens’ Mission fundraising groups are hosting a gala day on the Harbour on Sunday 13th August. This will be the first gala day since pre-pandemic, and will be on a slightly smaller scale than previous gala days. It’s being held on Sunday as there were no suitable Saturday dates that didn’t clash with other events. If you are in the area, please come along and support there two worthwhile causes!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2023

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The weather broke, just in time for the school holidays, and this meant that we had to postpone the proposed Sea Angling Competition on 1st July. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the rain stays off long enough on Saturday 8th July for us to host our first Marina Fun Day since 2019. 

Fishing has remained steady throughout the month, and prices for shellfish have been good. We have welcomed a few visiting boats throughout the month, although not as many as last year. There have also been some changes to the well boats harvesting salmon this month, with the Ronja Challenger being redeployed to Canada, and the Ronja Viking operating from Mallaig throughout the month.

We held our AGM on Friday 16th June, and said goodbye to Shona MacLeay, who had served her first term as a Board Member, and, due to other commitments, had decided not to reapply. We welcomed Peter Hillier, who had been co-opted onto the Board last year, as a full Board Member.

It has felt like a month of meetings – after the disappointment of not getting the DEFRA funding we are looking at various alternatives, which has involved lots of discussion with various groups and organisations to raise the profile of what we are trying to do.

Many of you will have seen the news last week that Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, announced that the proposal to develop HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas) as consulted on, will not be progressed. This means that the Government will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas by 2026. Although this was widely reported on as HPMA’s being scrapped, it’s actually not as straightforward as this. The government intends to develop a new pathway and timetable for their work to enhance marine protection, which will be in line with their draft biodiversity strategy and ambition for Scotland to be nature positive by 2030. However, there was a recognition that this needs to be done in consultation with the communities impacted, so we will look forward to engaging with whatever comes next, and working with the fishing industry locally to ensure the best possible outcomes for the local area. Prior to the Ministerial announcement, the Seafood Sector had gathered at the Scottish Parliament on 15th June to launch a petition urging the Government to scrap HPMAs. You can find more detail on the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation website, www.sff.co.uk.

We welcomed the Lord of the Isles back to Mallaig on 30th June, so for the moment we have a full complement of ferries – lets hope it stays that way for at least the duration of the summer holidays!

We’re a member of staff down at the Harbour at the moment, as Hugh Cameron was able to take advantage of a cancelation at short notice to have a knee operation done, which means that he will be off for much of the summer. Thanks are due to Danny, Simon and Sandy, who are covering and making sure everything runs smoothly in Hugh’s absence. We’ve welcomed back Ross Carr to cover days off at the Marina for the busier summer months.

This month we have granted a lease to Mallaig Men’s Shed for one of the units within the Prawn Market to get themselves established. We’ve also donated the old portacabin from the Marina to them, and it will be moved to the rear of the Prawn Market. Having a base will allow the Men’s Shed to be open more frequently throughout the week, and a bit more space will allow them to take on some small projects. We’re not promising the breakfast rolls that Michelle has been spoiling them with at their regular Monday meetings in the Community Centre though – they might have to make their own tea and coffee! If you are passing the prawn market and see them there, call in for a cup of tea and a blether, and to find out what they are up to – everyone is welcome, young and old!

Finally, we have had a very special visitor to the Harbour Office on more than one occasion this month – baby Fergus McKay De Wilde is Audrey’s second grandchild, and was born on 18th June. Congratulations to Fiona and Leo, and to Granny Audrey!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: June 2023

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The good weather has continued throughout May, and the marina is back open for the season. Although we have had some busy spells, it hasn’t been as consistently busy as last May, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year compares. The Pellew has arrived back for the season, and we are expecting the Eda Frandsen, followed by the Provident and Blue Clipper later in the year.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our application to DEFRA for the funding for the Outer Harbour project. This, combined with the tenders being higher than the estimate, means that we will have to revisit the project. This will delay the start date – so our hopes of getting started this year are now unrealistic. It’s a bit disappointing as lots of people have put lots of work in to get us this far, but we will try and come up with an alternative plan to take forward the project, as the demand for additional berthing and commercial space is still there. In the meantime, we are working on the detailed design for an additional overnight ferry berth, and more surveying work on Tuesday 6th June.

We welcomed back the Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk on Sunday 29th May, and the Lord of the Isles sailed in on Monday 29th so at the start of the week we were hopeful that normal service had resumed. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, CalMac had announced that the Lord of the Isles was being withdrawn again for the whole of June. While this is an inconvenience to us in Mallaig Harbour, it’s a much bigger issue for those in South Uist, and there has been significant backlash associated with the decision. With the Lord of the Isles sailing from Mallaig we were expecting up to 12 departures to the various islands each weekday, and 15 on a Saturday which is a lot of activity around the Harbour. In other ferry news, some of you may also have noticed new information boards as you pass Lochaber High School, which have a bit more information about any potential disruption than the previous board was able to display. These boards have been a work in progress for several years so it’s great to see them finally installed and working.

We also welcomed the first visit of the ‘new’ Screen Machine, which has a slightly different configuration, and so had to park up beside the ice plant, rather than opposite the office. This trailer has been leased from the same French based company who built the existing Screen Machine, and is slightly lower than the one it replaces, and is on hire while Regional Screen Scotland work towards the development of a new Screen Machine. The slightly lower height meant that, for the first time, the Screen Machine could visit Mallaig by road, rather than coming across on the ferry!

We had our Auditors up for a week in May, and at the same time we hosted a work placement student from S3 at Mallaig High School for three days. We were very lucky to have Aisling, who helped out with a range of jobs in the office. These included designing posters for the upcoming fishing competition and Marina Day – details below.

We’re hosting a sea angling competition on Saturday 1st July from 9am until 5pm, with weigh in and trophy presentation at 6pm at the Marina Centre. This has been kindly sponsored by Mallaig Boatyard, so the entry fees of £10 per adult (under 15s free) will be in aid of Mallaig Lifeboat and Mallaig Fishermen’s Mission. You can pick up an entry form and a copy of the rules from the Marina, or download them from our Facebook page.

The week after, Saturday 8th July, will see the return of the Marina Day, which hasn’t been held since 2019. This is a fun day, which is usually held on the second Saturday of June. Given that we’ve waited 4 years, we thought an extra month wouldn’t make any difference, so this year we are breaking with tradition and hosting the day in July! There will be a barbecue, and a bucking bronco, as well as information stalls for the RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission, and activities for children. This year there will also be a small regatta departing from the Marina at 2pm. We haven’t quite finalised the posters yet, but look out for them around the village, and we’ll post more information on our Facebook page throughout the month.

Our AGM will take place on Friday 16th June 2023. We are going to host a buffet lunch in the West Highland Hotel from 1.30pm, which will be followed by a presentation on the Harbour and our future plans, and the AGM. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Finally this month, we have had a few issues with locals driving too fast around the Harbour. The speed limit on the Harbour is 10mph, with a lower limit of 5mph in some areas. These limits are in place to keep everyone safe – especially during the busy summer months when there are lots of people around as well as vehicles. Under our Byelaws, the Harbour Master has the powers to ban people from driving on the Harbour. Whilst we would hope it would never come to that, the safety of those using the Harbour always has to be our first priority.

Jacqueline McDonell