News from Mallaig Harbour: June 2020

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Not much has changed from last month, although this last week (up to 29th May), there has been a bit more activity. Our staffing remains the same, as there is not enough work for all staff to be on-site, and Audrey, Pimmy and I are still working from home as much as possible. We are trying to keep the office staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am until 1pm.

The fishing fleet has been trying to get back to sea. Again, May has been an amazing month of weather which they have missed out on. Some of the boats have a limited market for their catch, and the Caralisa in particular has been enterprising and selling the majority of their catch locally. Lots of people have been enjoying fresh prawns and monkfish! We’ve turned the ice machine back on, and on one day sold the entire 12 tonnes it holds, which is a positive sign!

The CalMac essential lifeline timetable, which means no sailings to Skye, no calls from the Lord of the Isles, and sailings to the Small Isles only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday is operational at least until the 14th June. We did have a visit from the Lord of The Isles on 18th May, and we are expecting her back for a couple of days the first week in June. There is a new skipper aboard who is taking the opportunity to familiarise himself with the Harbour entrance. Although there are no passengers on board, it was nice to see her – a wee reminder of how things should be at this time of year!

Western Isles Cruises are also operating a lifeline timetable, with one sailing to Inverie on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Their music videos are a highlight to the week – have a look on their Facebook page if you haven’t seen them! There’s an amazing amount of freight which has to be taken over – and even we are seeing lots of deliveries at the Harbour Office – we’re grateful to the Posties and Delivery Drivers who are keeping everything moving!

As of 29th May, Scotland has entered Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s Routemap for recovery. As a result of this, we have changed the guidance associated with the Marina, and are allowing LOCAL TRAFFIC to use the pontoon in line with Government advice. The Shore facilities remain CLOSED, and we are not yet ready to welcome visiting vessels back to the pontoons. We have aligned our guidance very much to the RYA guidance, and published full information on the Marina website, The key points are:

  • At the moment access is for LOCAL boat owners only – we are not ready to welcome visiting yachts or other vessels. Guidance is that local means within about 5 miles.
  • Government guidance is NOT to stay away from home overnight – or to visit other communities. You may anchor for a break, for example lunch, but must not go ashore as this will break the 5 mile rule and could put communities at risk.
  • Be aware that handrails and water taps etc. will not be sanitised after every use so take precautions by washing your hands / using sanitiser.
  • The Shore Facilities are not open.
  • Allow for Social distancing on any of the pontoon walkways.
  • Observe Government guidance about meeting up with other households

We’re also asking people, in line with the RYA, to be Considerate and Conservative: be mindful of the potential impact that you could have on other water users and local communities. Do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services, and please ensure that you are able to cope with the conditions before leaving the Harbour. We’re also very aware that the Small Isles and Knoydart are not ready to welcome visitors yet, so we are reminding people of that.

By the time you read this, my first anniversary of working for the Harbour Authority will have passed. It’s been a quick year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with everything that goes on around the Harbour – I am lucky to have a great team around me, both in terms of the staff and the Board. There have been several new challenges for me throughout the year – not least those associated with Coronavirus – but I am looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

Also by the time you read this, we should have been celebrating the third annual Marina Day – which would have been Saturday 6th June, and last year marked the end of my first week at work! Unfortunately there will be no barbecue or bucking bronco this year, but hopefully it will be back next year.

The 8th June is World Oceans Day, ( and this year’s theme is ‘Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean’. Whilst there are no ‘physical’ events this year, there are a lot of resources online, including resources for children – so it’s worth taking a look.

Finally, our boats have continued to rise to the challenge of supporting the #clapforcarers each Thursday evening. We’ve managed to video some of these, and if you haven’t managed to experience them in person, you can see them on our facebook page (you don’t have to have a Facebook account to see them!) Once again, we are grateful to everyone working hard around the Harbour, and indeed throughout the wider community, to keep things moving.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: May 2020

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We’re all adjusting a bit to the new ‘normal’ around the Harbour, and although it feels very strange to not have the usual ‘hustle and bustle’ that would have been associated with Easter, we are fortunate in lots of ways that there is still some activity around the Harbour.

As I mentioned last month, the pier staff are not on-site all the time, and Audrey, Pimmy and I are working from home as much as possible. We are trying to keep the office staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am until 1pm.

Our fishing fleet are mostly tied up, as the market hasn’t really picked up again yet. There has been lots of lobbying for financial support for fishermen, and this is starting to filter through now. It’s been unfortunate in many ways that April was such a good month of weather this year, and it must be really frustrating for those who make their living from fishing to have calm weather and not be able to take advantage of it.

CalMac are still operating their essential lifeline timetable, which means no sailings to Skye, no calls from the Lord of the Isles, and sailings to the Small Isles only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This timetable is extended to 14th May at the moment, but CalMac are offering refunds to anyone who had booked sailings with them up until 15th July, so it is likely that it will be extended further.

Western Isles Cruises are also operating a lifeline timetable, with one sailing to Inverie on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Both CalMac and Western Isles Cruises have made great use of their Social Media – possibly in a slightly different way to normal – over the last month, keeping interested parties engaged and offering a wee ‘virtual glimpse’ of how things are operating. The Road to The Isles Marketing Group have also been very active on social media, providing ‘virtual postcards’ from the area, for those who can’t be with us at the moment. West Coast Waters are still running their sunset competition, with some great prizes. There have been some cracking sunsets this month – so get your entries in! They are also asking people to ‘immerse their senses’ in the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas of Scotland’s West Coast Waters, focussing on a different sense each week and starting with sight. 

We are lucky to have a range of great businesses operating from the Harbour, not just in fishing and marine tourism, who are all trying to make the best of the situation. This includes those businesses servicing the Aquaculture industry, and Scottish Sea Farms and MOWI who are trying to maintain operations as far as possible, with appropriate modifications.

The Marina remains closed to all visiting yachts. Part of the responsibility of the Harbour is to provide a safe berth if required, and, after discussion, we allowed a yacht from outwith the Harbour to come alongside the pontoon to take aboard a new battery on 15th April. We didn’t do this lightly, and we were aware that the yacht had been anchored off Isleornsay for three weeks before coming into Mallaig so any risk of infection would have been minimal. Unfortunately, the battery did not arrive when promised, which resulted in the yacht having to stay an extra night. We know that this caused some consternation locally, but please be reassured that we had thought carefully about the implications before allowing the boat access.

We haven’t gone as far as other Marinas in completely closing the gates and not allowing people access to their vessels, as we recognise that no-one locally using the pontoon has to travel a distance to do so, and that it is important for people to be able to access their boats to do essential maintenance and safety checks. We are aware that the RYA is lobbying for access to Marinas and is developing a ‘Return to Boating’ strategy, so Mallaig Harbour Authority will continue to monitor the situation and react to guidance as it is updated. In the meantime, we are relying on our users to act responsibly and follow existing guidance.

We had some big tides at the start of the month, and on the 9th April, low tide was 0.0 – right back to chart datum. It’s not often you will see the pontoon grounded!

CMAL have now published the Mallaig / Armdale STAG on their website, so if you have some time to spare, you can download the whole report from I would warn that it is 253 pages long! If you just want to look at the drawings for Mallaig, they start on Page 143, (which is actually page 152 of the download). On the website you will also see a request for those who would like to be considered as stakeholders for the project as it progresses in Mallaig to email to register as a stakeholder. This is important as, because CMAL led on the process to this stage, Mallaig Harbour Authority does not have contact details for those who were involved to date, and we are aware that there may be wider interest in how the project progresses.

Finally, we had a request from the British Ports Association for boats to get involved with #clapforcarers on a Thursday evening. I shared the request on our Facebook page, and Audrey contacted some of the regular users of the Harbour, and we have been consistently amazed at the response each Thursday. It really is quite humbling to hear, and on one week, it was such a still night and there was such a great response that we had a message from Skye from someone in Sleat who was delighted to hear the boats sounding their horns. There are so many people who are responsible for keeping the country going as well as possible through all this, not least those working in and around the Harbour to keep the Small Isles and Knoydart in supplies and to ensure that the food chain keeps moving, some of them on the boats that are making time in their routine to join the tooting – and we are grateful to all of them!

Jacqueline McDonell, CEO

News from Mallaig Harbour: April 2020

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Who would have thought that when it came to writing this month’s news for WestWord that the world would have turned so upside down in a month!

March started for the Harbour Authority with a Board Meeting on Friday 6th, with an Agenda full of all the things that were going on, both in terms of maintenance and development. Some of you will have noted the works going on at the Loch Nevis berth. The metal facings have all been taken off and re-galvanised before being replaced. Unfortunately, the work is not quite finished, as local accommodation providers were forced to close, and the workmen had to leave before the work was completed. They have left the berth safe to lie alongside so that it doesn’t matter when they get back, but if any of you are wondering why the crane seems to have been down there for weeks, there is your answer!

I mentioned last month the additional sailings to Skye, and these were relatively busy for the first two weeks, until the travel restrictions were put in place. Sailings to Skye are now all cancelled until 14th April at the earliest, the Loch Nevis is on an amended timetable for essential travel only, and the Lord of The Isles is sailing to Oban, so the ferry pier is much quieter than normal, as is the whole harbour. You might also be wondering why the Loch Nevis is going back to its berth each night when there is no other ferry traffic, and the answer to that is in case the linkspan is needed to transport the ambulance to one of our remoter communities to deal with a case of Coronavirus.

The weather finally improved at the beginning of the month, and the boats managed a few days at sea. Unfortunately, with Italy, France and Spain in the grip of Coronavirus, there is no export market for their catch, and the cold stores in this country are full, so they are now all tied up. This has meant that we have emptied the ice plant, and switched it off for the time being. Now would be an ideal time for the planned maintenance that it is required, but the engineer can’t get here, so this will have to wait. All the parts have finally arrived, so we are hopeful the work will be done quickly when restrictions are lifted.

When the restrictions were initially implemented, we were asked how it would impact the Harbour. At that stage, things were running pretty much as normal – salmon still being harvested and fed, ferries still in operation, the Marina gearing up for the season ahead, and the fishing boats finally at sea for the first time this year. However, in a fortnight, much of this activity is now reduced, and although the Harbour is still open for essential services, we are running on a skeleton staff. Pimmy, Audrey and I are working from home wherever possible, and those pier staff who are still working are only onsite when required to be, not their normal 8am-5pm. We are trying to share as much relevant information as possible on our Facebook Page, and if you email us, we’ll respond as soon as we can.

Following the guidance from the Government, the Marina is closed to all but essential traffic. In line with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, and the Small Isles and Knoydart, we are asking people not to travel to the area. We’ve added a statement to the website,, which includes links to guidance from Sail Scotland and the RYA, and our local communities only accessible by sea. For local residents, with a vessel moored on the pontoon year- round, then we recognise that it’s less straightforward. The guidance recognises that it’s important for people’s mental and physical well-being that they should be able to go out and exercise if they possibly can, the Government has made it clear that this exercise should only be taken locally to home and within the guidelines for social distancing.  

Please take this into consideration before deciding whether to use your boat, and please be mindful that the Small Isles and Knoydart are asking non-residents NOT TO VISIT at this time.

I’m not going to bother with my monthly plug for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, as events have overtaken us. In partnership with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, we had submitted a funding application for a programme of events leading up to a Maritime Day in June, but this involved the local schools and other community groups, so is not really feasible in the current climate. The funding was due to be announced by the end of March, so we are hopeful that the whole process can be postponed rather than cancelled altogether.

On a more positive note, the Strategic Transport Appraisal (STAG) for Mallaig and Armadale is now complete, and we had a positive meeting with Transport Scotland about the way forward for Mallaig Harbour. CMAL, as the pier owner at Armadale, will take forward the infrastructure works for Armadale, and Mallaig Harbour Authority will have to take forward any works for Mallaig. There are a few differences between the preferred option in the STAG, and the preferred option from MHA’s Masterplan, and we were keen to impress on Transport Scotland the need for commercial opportunities to be included in any development, a message that seemed to be understood. I’ve included artist’s impressions of the two schemes so that you can compare them.

I hope this month’s news is not too depressing! We realise that we are more fortunate in the Harbour Authority than many of the local businesses who rely entirely on Tourism, and we are definitely all lucky to live in such resilient communities, and in communities where everyone takes care to look out for one another. We’ve been receiving a range of information and updates about support for business through the Coronavirus crisis, whether financial or in terms of policies etc. so if anyone locally would like us to share any of these with them, then please just get in touch.

Jacqueline McDonell , CEO

Coronavirus Policy

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Mallaig Harbour Authority

Policies and Procedures during COVID-19 Outbreak

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and is now identified as a global pandemic according to the World Health Organization.

Because we know early and effective detection of suspected cases helps limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19, Mallaig Harbour Authority has implemented new safety procedures at our facilities.

Effective immediately, we ask that you not enter any enclosed areas if you have:

  • Had contact with someone who is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19; or
  • Are currently having flu life symptoms including fever, chills, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

For Truck Shipping / Receiving

  • Drivers are asked to stay in their cabins during the un/loading process unless involvement in the un/loading process is required
  • Only leave the cabin when authorised by MHA personnel
  • Drivers can leave the cabin for final cargo securing and checks, as well as personal needs
  • Contact time with MHA employees and other drivers will be limited
  • If using MHA facilities, hand sanitiser must be used before entering, and good hygiene practices observed.
  • Our employees will keep a distance from external visitors

Similar procedures will apply for the loading of vessels:

  • MHA staff will keep a distance from crew.
  • If boarding the vessel, MHA staff will observe good hygiene practices and any guidance provided by the vessel master, and will keep contact with crew to a minimum.

Mallaig Harbour Authority have also published an updated ‘Notice to Mariners’ in line with Scottish Government Advice, and this is available from our website.

We are aware that other operators using the Harbour have put in place their own policies, and would refer users to these policies where appropriate:

Harbour News: March 2020

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It has been another month of poor weather, with none of the boats really moving until the last week of February. However, this has allowed us to undertake some maintenance in the Harbour and at the pontoon. This has included some new safety fencing for marshalling ferry passengers, ready for the new season. As I am writing this on Monday 2nd March, the Loch Bhrusda is on the first day of the additional sailings to Skye. Looking out my window, there has been a wee queue of cars for each sailing, which is heartening to see. These additional sailings in March are on a trial basis, so hopefully they will be well-used and become a permanent addition to the timetable.

Although it has been a month of poor weather, we’ve had lots to cheer us up in other different ways. Fort William Shinty Club have been posting photos of one of their shinty balls in various locations throughout the area, and featured the ball at Mallaig Harbour on 4th February. Peat and Diesel released the video for their new song ‘Island’ on 18th February, and among many other views, there is a nice aerial shot of the Harbour, and also on 18th February, we were the lucky recipients of a crochet flower. You may have been fortunate enough to come across one of these flowers (ours was number 31), which have been left throughout the local area. Each is attached to a gift tag which says, ‘if you find this flower, please feel free to take it home. I hope it makes you smile #yearofhappyflowers2020’. Ours has certainly made us smile, and it is now hanging in the office to make other people smile so thank you to the mystery crocheter!

On the 21st February, Fort William and Mallaig Coastguard Rescue Teams used the pontoons to practice Water Rescue Assessments. It was a cold, miserable night, so they were hardy but I suppose you don’t get to pick the conditions for a rescue which means you have to practice in all weather!

I keep plugging the #yearofcoastsandwaters2020 but there really is a lot happening, and it’s a great opportunity for local businesses to get involved in promoting the area. Highlands and Islands Enterprise are running a series of workshops – ‘Immerse Your Business in West Coast Waters 2020’, including 2 days in Fort William on 23rd and 24th March. There is no cost to attend these workshops but you do have to book – you can find the details at Sail Scotland have also produced a series of 360˚ videos #MustSeaScotland to promote sailing, as part of the year, and these include Canna and the Isle of Skye. You can find them at

Not strictly Mallaig Harbour related, but it’s great to see that a new Community Council for Mallaig has been formed at the third attempt. I know the effort that Audrey put in to promoting the nominations, so it’s great that this has paid off.

Last month I mentioned the upcoming Board vacancies, and you will see an advert for these under Vacancies on this website or in the West Word. This year we have two vacancies to fill as we lose Johnny MacMillan and Allan Henderson, who have both served their maximum term. We’re very grateful for all the support they have given over the years. The Board meets 5 times each year, usually on a Friday morning and as I said last month, I am happy to have an informal discussion with anyone who thinks that they might be interested in applying, or would just like more information.   

Jacqueline McDonell

Sail Scotland

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Virtual reality ‘bucket list’ videos get international launch, inspiring boating visits to Scotland

Sail Scotland has unveiled a series of 360 degree virtual reality videos to encourage visitors to discover Scotland by boat.

The marketing body for Scottish marine tourism launched the videos on Saturday 18th January, giving the 250,000 visitors to the Dusseldorf Boat Show the opportunity for an immersive, on the water experience of some of Scotland’s extraordinary islands, coastal destinations and canals. The boat show is an international industry highlight, providing a high-profile platform for the launch of the innovative videos.

Visitors are invited to explore eight inspiring must-visit locations through the 360 degree videos. These each give a taste of Scotland’s unique coastlines and islands, culture, heritage and wildlife. The virtual reality (VR) series spearheads Sail Scotland’s #MustSeaScotland campaign, created in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland, Diageo and CalMac, and supported by VisitScotland.

A virtual visitor might find themselves on approach to St Kilda, as the islands tower out of the storm-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They will discover the stories of the ancient landscape and the resilient people who made a home here, and marvel at the hundreds of thousands of seabirds clamouring high above on sea stacks and cliffs.

Another virtual journey reveals the Isle of Islay, a gateway to the Western Isles cruising grounds. Visitors can take in the sweeping bays and spectacular views, before glimpsing behind the scenes at one of Islay’s renowned whisky distilleries and joining sea kayakers to explore the dramatic coastline.

Mingulay, Canna, Oban, Skye and Inverness, the Moray Firth and Highland canals also all feature in the series of high tech videos. In addition to inspiring sailors to Scotland’s waters, the videos are designed to encourage other visitors to explore by boat, as well as to discover Scotland’s coastal towns and attractions. In the virtual visit to Staffa, holidaymakers step aboard a trip boat to explore the island’s surreal volcanic rock columns and the magic of Fingal’s Cave, while the virtual voyage to Islay is aboard a CalMac ferry. Video visitors to the picturesque seaside town of Oban discover highlights including Oban Distillery, McCaig’s Tower and Dunstaffnage Castle.

Each 360 degree video also has an accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ video. These reveal a fascinating glimpse into the making of the virtual reality videos, which were created for Sail Scotland by Airborne Lens using the latest film techniques and state-of-the-art camera technologies.

Sail Scotland works year-round to encourage visitors to the unique destinations and experiences Scotland offers. The #MustSeaScotland digital campaign aims to generate £1m for Scotland’s economy through visits by boat. The videos can be viewed on mobile phones and on computers, as well as through VR headsets, making them easily accessible. Once video users’ attention is caught by their virtual reality experience, they can link to opportunities to find out more, plan their visit and make bookings.

The #MustSeaScotland campaign supports the National Marine Tourism Strategy and Tourism Scotland 2020 and offers a fitting introduction to Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020. This themed year is designed to inspire visitors and locals to explore and experience our unique shores.

Alan Rankin, Chief Executive of Sail Scotland, said: “Having visited many of the stunning locations featured in the videos, I believe the 360 VR format is the next best thing to getting out there. The videos have a true ‘wow’ factor and I would encourage everyone to experience them for themselves.

 “Sail Scotland works hard with our members and partners to promote our wonderful sailing and boating waters, and to encourage visitors to our extraordinary coastal landscapes. Being at the largest consumer show of its kind in Europe with such innovative material is a great start to the year.”

Gavin McDonagh, Chair of Sail Scotland, added: “We’re delighted to showcase our multi-media #MustSeaScotland campaign and state-of-the-art virtual reality videos at Europe’s biggest customer-facing boat show. This is also a great example of how Sail Scotland promotes Scotland and the marine tourism industry.”

David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “The VisitScotland Growth Fund award is about encouraging collaboration within Scotland’s tourism industry to develop innovative marketing campaigns which will grow the visitor economy. It’s therefore great to see this campaign, which is led by Sail Scotland, partnered with National Trust for Scotland, Diageo and CalMac, launch these immersive films. They give a superb virtual taste of some of the country’s best coastal locations and will hopefully encourage visitors to come to Scotland to experience our coasts and waters for real.”

The #MustSeaScotland virtual reality video series, including behind the scenes videos, can be viewed online on Sail Scotland’s YouTube channel, at

Sail Scotland

  • Follow us on twitter: @sailscotland
  • Sail Scotland Ltd is the Scottish marine industry’s tourism marketing organisation. It is a membership based organisation, with members ranging from small holiday companies to large multi-national marinas.
  • Sail Scotland works together with marine tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • For information on sailing and boating holidays in Scotland go to
  • For information on other leisure and business trips to Scotland go to

Year of Coasts and Waters 2020

  • Scotland’s Coasts and Waters will be showcased throughout 2020 and celebrated with a programme of activity designed to support the nation’s tourism and events sectors. 
  • The year, led by VisitScotland, will sustain and build upon the momentum of Scotland’s preceding Themed Years to spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled Coasts and Waters, encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors. 
  • A year-long programme of events, activities and ideas will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have had on Scotland, from the formation of beautiful natural features to the creation of our national drink – whisky. 
  • Join the conversation using #YCW2020
  • See for further information.

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2020

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The weather hasn’t improved any since my last news, which meant that the sprat pump didn’t get any further use, and was finally removed on 24th January. On the 13th and 14th January there were big tides, which, along with the storm surge, led to both the lifeboat and the passenger access pontoon being above the height of the pier. Thankfully there was no damage done, but it made for some pretty impressive photos. Unfortunately, because they were taken in the dark, they won’t reproduce well in Westword, but you can see some of them on our Facebook page.

We’ve been using this quieter period to catch up on some maintenance, especially around the Marina, but we are also hoping to do some work, including replacing ladders, in the Outer Breakwater – if the weather calms down enough! We have also received the report from Resource Efficient Scotland with recommendations for how we can reduce our energy consumption. As I indicated before, the most visible aspect of this will be changing the lights around the Harbour to LEDs, which has been calculated to save 35,000kWh of energy and 9 tonnes of CO2 annually.

I’ve been mentioning that this is the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, and there are various events going on throughout Scotland throughout the year. We are hoping to host an event on the 27th June, in partnership with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group; RNMDSF and the RNLI. This will be a great community gala day, with various additional elements to really celebrate our Coasts and Waters. More details will be available in the run up to the day, but in the meantime, please mark the date in your diaries, and if anyone has any suggestions of what they would like to see incorporated, or would be willing to help with anything either in the run-up or on the day, then please get in touch.

We have also received information from the Highland and Moray FLAG (fisheries local action group) who are looking for participants who are involved in the fishing industry in the Highlands and Moray, and who would be interested in visiting the Jammerbugt FLAG and the Guild of Thorupstrand Coastal Fishermen in Northern Denmark. The fishing community in Thorupstrand, in northern Jutland, is one of the few examples of small-scale fishing still surviving in Denmark. The area has faced similar industry challenges to Highland and Moray in terms of lack of young fishermen coming into the industry, decommissioning impact, difficulties accessing quota, and changing markets. Through an innovative project and co-operative working, the Fishermen’s Guild and the Jammerbugt FLAG have taken steps to protect the industry, including attracting young people into the industry, community owned quota, sustainable gear adaptations, boat building, and their own seafood branding initiatives. The visit would be fully funded for successful applicants, and you can find more information, and a short questionnaire to complete if you are interested at

We had our first Board Meeting of the year in mid-January, and the next one is scheduled for mid-March. As with every year, there will be Board vacancies, which will be advertised immediately after the March Board meeting. We know that it is quite a tight turnaround for applications each year, so I’m happy to have an informal discussion with anyone who thinks that they might be interested in applying even before the positions are advertised.  

Finally, most of you will know that our Harbour Master had a big birthday on Wednesday 29th January. We celebrated with home-made Prosecco and Strawberry cheesecake kindly made by Grace. Happy Birthday Pimmy!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2020

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Happy New Year to everyone! It’s not a great start to the year weather-wise, with high winds forecast for most of the week, and not much movement in the harbour as I am writing this on Monday 6th. We were due to host the Screen Machine on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th January but unfortunately the stormy weather meant that this visit had to be cancelled.

On a more positive note, the Sprat landings continued through December, right up until Wednesday 18th as the weather continued to be kind. A total of 1,210 tonnes was landed pre-Christmas, and the boats requested the pump be left for the start of January, in the hope that there would be more landings of sprats. This was also a boost for our ice plant, as there was almost daily ice required!

The Marina is closed for the Winter season, so we have been reviewing the occupancy figures. Although there were very slightly more vessels in total this season, there were actually less nights occupied at the Marina, with 1,401 in 2019/20 as opposed to 1,602 in 2018/19. June and July were on a par with the previous year, but August was quieter. This year is the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 so it will be interesting to see what impact this has on marine tourism locally. There are some great opportunities to promote the area on social media throughout the year, not least the Sunset competition running all year as West Coast Waters try and create a breathtaking West Coast Waters Sunset Trail for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020. There’s a different prize to be won each fortnight throughout the year, and your photograph doesn’t even have to be new – it just has to be shared to @WCWScotland and tagged #WCWSunsets and the location of the picture.

Mallaig Harbour Authority is a member of The British Ports Authority, who put together a range of information in the run-up to the General Election in December. This included their proposals for ‘A New Deal for UK Fishing Ports’, which you can read at This document recommends three different strands:

Building Economic Resilience – by creating a domestic fisheries fund to replace EU funding which has clear, strategic aims that tie into wider policy to revive UK fishing

Restoring the Economic Link – which suggests increasing landings into UK ports is the best way to ensure that UK coastal communities benefit from UK fisheries. Increasing landings would also put UK fishing ports on a more sustainable economic footing, boosting the wider marine economy.

Maintaining Market Access – which supports Government policy to negotiate a deal on fisheries that preserves frictionless and tariff-free trade for seafood. 

Each of these strands could have significant implications for Mallaig Harbour, and the delivery of our new Masterplan, so we will be watching with interest how policy develops.

As many of you will know, the ‘upstairs’ Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings has been empty for a period. As Mallaig Harbour Authority has overall responsibility for the building, we decided as a Board that we should approach Denholms to take back the lease on the space, with the intention of sub-dividing it so that it could be used again. This will allow us to update the whole upstairs of the building, putting in more modern facilities. Denholms renounced the lease at the end of December, so we are currently working with an architect to draw up some plans, with the intention of sub-dividing the existing space into three offices, some storage and a communal kitchen for all the upstairs users. 

 Jacqueline McDonell

Harbour News: November 2019

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News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2019

First of all, Congratulations to Westword on their 25th anniversary, and 300th edition. I thought it would be good to start this month looking back at what was happening in autumn 1994 around the harbour.

The new linkspan facilities at Mallaig and Armadale had been in operation for their first season, and a larger ferry, the Iona had been servicing the Mallaig-Armadale route, while a new twice-weekly route had begun from Mallaig to the Western Isles. Up to September 1994, numbers between Mallaig and Armadale had risen from 120,399 passengers in 1993 to 138,342 in 1994, cars were up from 26,958 to 32,636, commercial vehicles from 62 to 86 and coaches from 432 to 686! However, there was concern that while the port was busier, it was easier for people to by-pass Mallaig and head straight South. (As a comparison, in the year from 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019 the ferry carried 332,944 Passengers; 77,181 cars; 2,367 Coaches and 825 Commercial vehicles)

In December 1994, Mallaig Harbour Authority was welcoming the announcement of funding of £4.1 million towards the £6.8million cost of creating a new breakwater for Mallaig, and expanding fish landing and berthing facilities and the construction of a new fish market to meet European Union hygiene standards!

Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association was calling for a total ban on twin-rig trawling in all Scottish Waters following on from a ban on the use of 70mm fishing gear.

The West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation had lodged its draft constitution with the Scottish Office and was awaiting approval. It had received 72 applications for membership from vessels as far away as Cape Wrath and the Solway Firth, and including the Western Isles.   

The MHA Minutes for 7th October 1994 also noted that ‘a wind generator “kit” has been purchased and once suitable weather occurs it will be installed at the Lighthouse’, and that, ‘With increased yacht usage at the port the possibility of establishing yacht moorings was to be examined’.

Back to the present month, and I have been on holiday for two weeks, but have managed to fit in quite a few meetings with Harbour Users and other partners around this. I mentioned last month the final meeting of the STAG appraisal group, and we are hoping that this will be published shortly.

As a Board, we are looking at how the Harbour Authority can become more environmentally friendly and reduce our carbon footprint. One of the quickest ways we can achieve this is to reduce our electricity consumption, and we are hoping to change all the pier lights to LED lights as a first step. We are also working with Westwheels, who have been successful in attracting funding for an electric vehicle, and we are hope to get grants to install electric vehicle charging points at the harbour. If we are successful, these will also be available for public use.

The Marina closes for the Winter at the end of October, so we have to say thanks to Courtney McLean and Michael MacLelllan for all their work over the season.

We have also said goodbye this month to Colin MacDougall, Alec Kennedy and Avril Trotter, who finished in the Denholm Fishselling Office this month – we will miss working with them.

The MCA hosted a roadshow in Mallaig on the 30th October to consult fisherman on a new Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels that is in development. The code proposes a number of new requirements for vessels, and is effective from October 2019. You can find it by searching the internet for MSN 1871.

When the new Passenger Access Pontoon was built, lots of people commented on why the ramp was built so high. It was engineered to take account of the biggest tides, and this photo, taken on Tuesday 29th October, which shows the pontoon level with the top of the pier, demonstrates the need for the height.


Jacqueline McDonell

Harbour News:October 2019

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September has been a quieter month in lots of ways, which has given me a chance to catch my breath! The Marina is much quieter, and the demand from fishing boats for ice has also slowed down a bit. We had trialled automatic access to the ice plant at the start of September, but there are still some issues with the delivery so this hasn’t been entirely successful. We’re still working with TRS to resolve the ongoing issues but it is causing quite a bit of frustration for us and the fishing fleet.

We’ve received the UK Sea Fisheries Statistics this month, which show the importance of the fishing industry in Scotland. In 2018, UK vessels landed 698 thousand tonnes of sea fish (including shellfish) into the UK and abroad with a value of £989 million. Landings by Scottish vessels were well over 400 thousand tonnes in each of the last four years, a result of increased mackerel landings. In 2018, the Scottish fleet’s share of total landings was 64 per cent, compared with 27 per cent for the English fleet. If anyone is interested, you can access the full report at

The picture for Mallaig is not quite so rosy, and indeed, in July’s monthly report to the Board Members, I had to report that White fish landings in July 2019 were only 3% of the landings in 2018, mainly due to far fewer visiting boats this summer. In July 2018, 105,000 units of fish were landed by visiting boats, whereas the figure for this year was 212 units! Hopefully this was an exceptionally low year, and won’t be repeated next summer!

We had a Board Meeting on 13th September, and as part of this, Donna Manson, the Chief Executive of The Highland Council came along to meet the Board and learn a bit about the Authority’s plans for development, whilst she was undertaking visits in the area anyway.

After the Board Meeting, the Directors had a farewell dinner for Robert MacMillan in the West Highland Hotel. Robert was presented with an aerial print of the Harbour, looking up to Loch Nevis and hospitality at a Rangers Football match – now that he has time to enjoy a trip away!

The road at Westbay is progressing well, although there might be a slight delay before the tar can be laid – due to other demands on the tarring company.

We had two film crews around the Harbour this month. The BBC sent a cameraman from Autumnwatch to follow Martin Carty on his annual Shearwater rescue. Unfortunately, it was calm and there was a full moon on the days of filming, and the Shearwaters are less inclined to fledge in a full moon, so despite there having been plenty of activity the previous week, the Shearwaters were a bit shier when the camera crew were here!

On 24th September, Young Films came over from Skye to film a scene for the Gaelic drama ‘Bannan’.  They were filming over lunchtime on the ‘bandstand’ in the centre of the village, and on the ‘Lord of the Isles’ on their way back to Skye.

Mallaig Harbour Authority has received a final draft of the STAG appraisal, which has been ongoing all year. STAG is short for Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, and this one has been looking at the options for ferry infrastructure in both Mallaig and Armadale. There were initially 5 options identified for Mallaig, but the final draft recognises that three of these are not realistic, and so has recommended that only two options go forward for further investigation.  One of these two options closely aligns with the Harbour’s own Masterplan. We have a final meeting to agree the draft on the 8th October, so more information will be available next month.

As part of my previous role with HIE, I was invited to sit on the Highland and Moray Fisheries Local Action Group,, and I have been able to continue this role representing the Harbour Authority. Although the programme is coming to an end, there is still some funding left for projects led by community organisations or small businesses which provide a benefit to fisheries communities. You can find all the details on the website.

Jacqueline McDonell, CEO