News from Mallaig Harbour: August 2019

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This has been a month of learning the ropes for me, meeting people and trying to understand everything that’s going on, and how it all fits together!

I’m lucky to have a great view from my office window, and there’s been a lot of activity outside the office this month as Knoydart Construction have the contract to build a new Hydro Electric scheme on the Barisdale Estate on Loch Hourn, so Milligan Transport have been taking all the required equipment in by sea from Mallaig.

The Marina has been busy, and we have two new staff supporting Chris – Courtney is managing the Shore Base, and Michael is covering days off for the summer season.

The warm weather has meant lots of demand on the ice plant – we’ve been working at capacity some days, but we continue to have issues with the IT side of things, so haven’t been able to fully automate the plant yet. 

We welcomed another new boat to the harbour this month. The ‘Fleur De Lys’ has been bought by Donald Sharman of Mallaig Boatyard Ltd, to be upgraded to provide weekly cruises.

There has again been some disruption to the Cal-Mac sailings, with the Lord of the Isles having to fill in for the Isle of Lewis and undertake some unscheduled runs to Barra, meaning that capacity between Mallaig and Armadale was affected. On the positive side, CalMac have installed two new passenger shelters, one for passengers waiting to access the Loch Nevis via the RO-RO ramp, and another one on the breakwater for those using the Skye ferries. These are designed to protect passengers from the worst of the weather. Thankfully they haven’t been needed much this month!

XOcean are still surveying the coastline this month, so you may have seen their remotely operated vessel south of Mallaig. It was making the most of the good weather last week, and headed back into the harbour at 10pm last Thursday, closely followed by its operator on the Harbour Tender. 

I’ve been reviewing some of the charges, and it has been agreed that we will increase the cost of an annual parking permit from £50 to £60 with effect from 1st August. This is still great value for money at £5 a month, and is the first increase since the charges were implemented. We have a waiting list for car parking spaces, so if anyone no longer wants theirs then please let us know.

Finally for this month, we have set up a Facebook page – so if you are interested in what’s going on, then give us a ‘like’!

Jacqueline McDonell, CEO :

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landings/Dues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Passengers:                    343,847                       Passengers        :               332,944

Cars:                                  82,230                       Cars                      :                 77,181

Coaches:                          2,375                          Coaches              :                   2,367

Commercials:                 851                             Commercials     :                      825

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

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


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


                        Occupancy      Short Stay                    Locals

2018                    1602                  54                                65

2017                    1547                  42                                65

2013                    1338                  81                                60

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

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

Charles King (Chairman)                               

Gavin Davis  (Vice Chair)               re-appointed April 2019

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

Michael Foxley                                                                                 

Allan Henderson                                                                                             

John MacMillan                                

James Wilson                                                                                                    

Jacqueline Wright

Lorna Spencer                   New Appointment April 2019   


Jacqueline McDonell, CEO

Mallaig Harbour News June 2019

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West Bay Access Road

Plans are well advanced for the creation of an access road from the Highland Council’s Industrial Estate onto the Harbour West Bay Industrial Estate and we hope to progress this issue in the coming weeks/months.

Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone have submitted drawings/plans to Highland Council seeking their approval and once this is granted the contract will be put out to tender.  Hopefully this will be sooner rather than later.


Following on from their successful inaugural season participating in the Skye & Lochalsh Football League (they reached three finals and won the League Championship) it was agreed at the latest meeting of the Authority that we continue sponsorship of Mallaig F.C. for the 2019 season.

The photo shows Robert MacMillan of the Authority (extreme left) presenting a cheque for £1,500 to Jaimie Young of Mallaig FC.  Other team members in the photo are from left to right Andrew Sneddon, Brett MacMillan, Frazer Davis, Ryan MacDonald, David Buick, Liam McLean, Andy Cunningham, Rhys MacLeod, Damian Kenning and David Currie.

Best of luck to Mallaig FC for the 2019 season – here’s to more success!   

                                                                                               (Photo Moe Mathieson)


After 35 years at the Authority I have decided to retire and I leave office at the end of June.  My successor has been appointed and Mrs Jacqueline McDonell will take up her role on Monday 3rd June.

MALLAIG HARBOUR RETIRAL 21/5/19 Robert MacMillan, who is retiring as CEO of Mallaig Harbour Authority with his replacement, Jacqueline McDonell. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

I have greatly enjoyed my time with the Authority and would like to thank all Board Members who have served the Authority and helped me greatly through the years.

I need to thank in particular Mr Michael Currie who was Chairman for most of my time with the Authority and Mr Charlie King who was appointed Chairman in 2014 and was Vice-Chairman for the previous 30 years or so.  Over the years they have helped me enormously as we plotted a course through sometimes very stormy waters!

I would also like to thank Harbour Staff, past and present for putting up with me and always being there when needed.  They really did go the extra mile when requested.

Thank you all very much and best wishes to Jacqueline in her new post.                                                                                                                                                               (Photo Iain Ferguson)

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – May 2019

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Mallaig Passenger Ferry Pontoon

Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone issued the Completion Certificate for the Passenger Walkway Pontoon on Friday 4th April 2019 signifying that contractors Gael Force Engineering had completed the project at a cost in the region of £193,000.

Mallaig Harbour Ice

Several weeks behind schedule it may have been but on Friday 5th April half a dozen fishing boats took on board ice from the new Harbour Authority owned Mallaig Ice Plant.

The new plant has not yet been fully commissioned and questions remain about it’s overall ability to provide ice at the touch of a “computer button” but progress is being made, ice is being manufactured and delivered to fishing vessels although currently its only available during office hours on week days at present.

Service will be improved once the IT side of the operation is in situ

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – April 2019

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Passenger Walkway

The new Passenger Access Walkway is now operational.  It began it’s working life on Friday 22nd March – several weeks behind schedule.

Contractors Gael Force Ltd have now completed 99% of the work with the only outstanding item being the replacement of ill fitting mesh panelling with ones manufactured/cut to the proper size.

As an add on to the contract mesh infill panels will be fitted between the walkway ramp and the pier surface.

Mallaig Harbour Ice

The plant is now powered up and the electrical meters were fitted on Thursday 28th March after what seemed an interminable delay.

Officials from TRS Ltd will be on site week commencing 8th April so hopes are high that the new Plant will become operational later this month.

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – March 2019

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This month will see the completion of the two Harbour projects that have been on-going since the turn of the year namely the new Ice plant and the Passenger Access Pontoons.

Mallaig Harbour Ice

Site delays have occurred due to the failure of contractors to identify and locate the whereabouts of the power cable to the old Ice Factory that needs to be dis-connected prior to the re-connection of the new Ice Plant to the mains power supply.

After digging in several locations contractors Fion Construction finally located the cable on Thursday 28th February and the following day, 1st March SSE Hydro were on site to install the new cable.

Water connections to the new Ice Plant were also established on the 1st March so by the time you read this it is to be hoped that the new Mallaig Harbour Ice Plant will be operational if not wholly then at least partly and able to produce ice for the local fishermen and buyers.

Passenger Access Pontoons

The final one of eight pontoons that will form the base of the new passenger access was placed in-situ on Thursday 28th February and by the following day it was estimated that 90% of the work was now complete with the passenger access becoming operational by mid-March.

At time of press lifebelts, lights, safety railings and bollards are among the items yet to be installed but they should only take a few more days to fit.

Board Members

As is normal at this time of year the Mallaig Harbour Authority advertise for new Members to come forward and join the Harbour Board.  New faces around the Board table are required, it brings new thoughts and ideas so please consider applying and help keep MHA at the forefront of local development, vibrant, forward thinking, responsive and pro active.

Fish Feed

A very warm west coast welcome to the Aqua Senior – pictured here – the new Fish Feed Carrier that will be based at Mallaig from 1st March.

The 47.58 metre long Norwegian registered “Aqua Senior” – a side loading vessel – has been seen in and around the port for the past few weeks undergoing trials not only in the Harbour but also at several of the fish farm sites.

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – February 2019

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Mallaig Harbour News: February 2019

Current Engineering Issues

Delays have occurred to both Harbour Projects that were highlighted in the January issue of West Word: i) The Passenger Access Pontoons; and ii) The new Mallaig Ice plant.

i) Problems with a prefabricated steel beam which resulted in the need for a new beam to be manufactured and then galvanised has been the main cause of the delay with the Passenger Access Pontoons.  Once the beam is on site and in situ all the other components – the access platform, access ramp and the placement of the pontoons – will be able to be placed in position.

The new amended completion date is now the 22nd February 2019. We do apologise for the delay.

ii) Mallaig Harbours new Ice Plant is nearing completion and should become operational by the end of this month.

The containerised Ice Plant arrived from China – it’s country of manufacture – on the 16th & 17th January and, at the time of writing, is now 95% complete.

Utility connections (power, water, broadband line) are proving an issue and that is part of the reason for the delay in the commissioning of the plant.

Past Times

The Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation Ltd (SFO) calendar for 2019 is entitled The Fisher Folk’s Story and it contains historical black & white photos of fishing scenes from the past.

There are a couple of photos of Mallaig Harbour including this one, the cover shot of the calendar, which carries the sub-title “Valiant OB191, landing lobsters at Mallaig.

The picture dates back to the late 50’s/early 60’s and was probably taken one Saturday morning, the normal day from the Mallaig Lobster Sale.

After being away for the week, fishing on the west side (of the Hebrides) the Mallaig lobster boats of the time, the “Valiant” owned by Jimmy Henderson, the “Beulah” (Jimmy McLean); the “Excellent” (Jimmy Aitchison); the “Winner” (Willie MacDonald); and the Speedwell (Alex Duncan) among them, would return to Mallaig on the Friday afternoon/evening with their catch and then “steep” the lobsters in the bay, the line of boxes being supported by a buoy at each end – this being done to keep the lobsters alive of course.

On a Saturday morning to save all the boats going out into the bay to haul up their boxes one or two boats would venture out, pick up the boxes of lobsters and take them back to the pier for the auction which is why on the deck of the Valiant you can read the name “Excellent OB343” on one of the boxes.

When all the boxes were landed onto the pier, the Auction would commence with Salesmen Ian MacLennan & Robbie Hepburn eeking out the best prices for their clients.  Some of the buyers involved around about that time would be George Aitchison; Alex Henderson; Bill Henderson; Andy Duncan; Jimmy Sanderson and Wm Simpson & Sons.

Can you identify the fishermen on board the “Valiant”?  Names below.


Robert MacMillan


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Names: (left to right): Duncan Henderson, Jimmy Henderson, Jimmy Aitchison, Ian Campbell, Eckie Aitchison, Jimmy Philip.

Harbour News – January 2019

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Mallaig Harbour News: January 2019

Projects for 2019

This new year will herald the completion of two projects that have been bubbling away for the past few months.

The Passenger Ferry Access – which will replace the steps – will be in situ by the time the February 2019 issue of West Word hits the streets.  Contractors Gael Force Ltd will be on site on the 8th of January, will begin lifting in the guides on the 11th, the pontoons on the 14th and the access ramps and bridges on the 16th January.

Mallaig Harbour Ice plant is due to arrive in Mallaig mid January.  The Ice Plant which consists of two 40’ containers one on top of the other will then be assembled, commissioned and become operational early in February 2019.


It’s been a dismal end to what has been a dismal year for our fishermen with not even an end of year boost for the sprat trawlers.  There’s been no sprat landings (so far) this winter.

It all adds to the doom & gloom as it’s fair to say that since October 2017 – a total of 14 months – the prawn fishing in the South Minch has been poor, the usually abundant grounds providing sparse return for the effort and fuel expended by the skippers.

One could argue that the fishing industry in Mallaig is at it’s lowest ebb ever, certainly within living memory and its extremely worrying with only a handful of fishing boats left in the port.  Not so long ago Mallaig used to boast over 40 locally owned vessels employing up to 160 (mostly) local men eager to put to sea and eager to get the rewards.  It would seem that a way of life is fading away before our very eyes.

Tommy Ralston, an ex fisherman, prawn buyer and Lifeboat Coxswain, who sadly passed away last year, wrote a book entitled Captains and Commanders which contained this nostalgic poem also called Captains and Commanders.  Read it please and ponder!

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – December 2018

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Mallaig Harbour Ice

Contractors TRS Ltd have recently informed the Authority that the arrival of the new Containerised Ice Plant due to be delivered to Mallaig Harbour on Tuesday 8th January 2019 has been delayed by one week.  The new delivery date is now Monday 14th/Tuesday 15th January 2019 with engineer onsite for the following 2.5 weeks to assemble/commission the plant.

The Authority remains hopeful that the new Ice Plant will therefore become operational February 2019.

Passenger Pontoon

Gael Force Ltd have been given the contract to construct the Passenger Pontoon and place it in situ in the inner harbour so making the existing passenger steps redundant..  It was hoped that this would become operational prior to the year end but unfortunately this will not now be the case as work will not now commence until week beginning the 14th January 2019.  The new completion date is now end of January 2019.


The non-appearance of shoals of sprats in the Minch this winter is a major disappointment as it had been hoped to end what has been a pretty dreadful year for the fishing industry in Mallaig on a high but this is clearly not now going to be the case.

Festive greetings to all Harbour users from all at the Authority.

Robert MacMillan


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Harbour News – November 2018

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Landing Values

As can be seen from the attached chart the port of Mallaig is ranked No 8 in Scotland on the value of catch landed for the calendar year 2017:

Mallaig Ice Factory

The dramatic downturn in fishing boats using Mallaig Harbour in recent years has already impacted on the availability of shoreside facilities.

The latest blow is the decision by Denholm Fishselling Ltd to close down the Mallaig Ice Co later this month.  The Mallaig Ice Co was formed in 1948 – 70 years ago – and its closure is a sad reflection on the current state of the west coast fishing industry.

However the Mallaig Harbour Authority has sourced 50% EU funding for a new containerised ice plant which is due to arrive on site early January 2019 and allowing three – four weeks for erection and commissioning, becomes operational late January.

There will inevitably be a lack of ice during the change over period from one ice plant to the other and unfortunately this will impact on the fishing fleet using the port.


  • Here is an interesting photo showing the original Lovat Pier (bottom right) and the wooden pier constructed by British Railways. Not sure of a date, 1920’s?


Robert MacMillan


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