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News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2022

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I started last month talking about the storms, and it feels like there has been nothing but storms since. Although our weather hasn’t been as extreme as other parts of the country, we’ve had our fair share of wind and rain, so much so that the boats have hardly been as sea for the last month. Let’s hope March is a better month!

Storm Dudley disrupted the harvest schedule for MOWI on 16th February, and instead of being overnight the harvest started at 2pm. Gillie kindly invited Mallaig Harbour Authority staff over for a tour round the factory, showing us how the fish are harvested. Some of the longer serving staff had seen the process before, but for me it was a first, and really interesting to see. Whilst people may have different opinions about the merits of farmed salmon, there is no question that the welfare of the fish is at the forefront of the harvesting process.

I also mentioned last month the publication of the Summer timetable for the Skye and Lochboisdale ferries, and the intention that the Small Isles timetable would be published imminently. As I’m writing this, the timetable for the period from 25th March until 6th May, utilising the Larven and Spanish John to sail to Rum and Canna on a Saturday to support the Loch Nevis, has just been published, and Saturday sailings for the peak summer period have not been finalised. CalMac have also issued a statement that the Lord of The Isles will not be available for the Mallaig – Lochboisdale route for March, as she is covering an alternative route. In the meantime we have moved ahead with the proposals to provide a bit more marshalling space. Working with CalMac, three shipping containers have been moved onto the Breakwater to enable us to create a one-way system and utilise part of the car park between the snack bar and the Loch Nevis berth to provide additional marshalling. CalMac have also been talking to us about the project to build a replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles, which is in its early stages. As part of their community consultation, they will host a public webinar on 16th March, and we will publish more details on this on our website and Facebook page.

Parking is going to be a hot topic for the next few months, as the new Parking Enforcement Officer has started work and we are all going to have to think a bit more carefully about where we park. We’ve been getting lots of enquiries about parking permits on the Harbour. All our spaces are allocated and we have a long waiting list so unfortunately we can’t provide a solution for everyone.

We have taken the opportunity this month to tidy up some of the Harbour area, disposing of old nets and fishing gear from the Harbour and the area around the West Bay Stores. It took two 16 tonne skips and a further smaller skip to achieve this, so we are hopeful that the area remains tidy!

During the storms this month we were also made aware that some people had decided it was a good idea to jump into the water from the harbour while all the boats were tied alongside. It goes without saying that this is never a good idea – jumping into cold water in amongst ropes and moored vessels is not a sensible move – especially not in the middle of a storm. We are extremely lucky that there have been very few incidents around the Harbour and we’d like to keep it that way! We don’t want to have to close off parts of the harbour because of the actions of a minority but we also have to take our Health and Safety responsibilities seriously.  

Our Marine Licence for the works in the Outer Harbour is now being processed by Marine Scotland, and alongside these works, the Board took the opportunity at our February meeting to consider the future strategy for the Harbour Authority, and to look again at our Masterplan, which was published in 2016. Lots of things have moved on from then, and we wanted to take the opportunity to consider what we might add to the original plans. This is a work in progress, but we realise that there has been lots of activity within some of the communities served by the Harbour since 2016, and that we should be engaging with the wider community to see what other future demands there might be if more space was available on the Harbour. We hope to get the opportunity to do this over the next few months so watch this space!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2022

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We were lucky on the Harbour to not incur any damage from the storms over the weekend of 29th and 30th January. It will be interesting to see what wind speeds were recorded here, as although it was wild, I suspect it wasn’t as wild as elsewhere. There were fears for some of the more exposed buildings, as there were lumps of sea crashing over them, but thankfully all have survived!

January has been pretty miserable weather wise, but looking forward to the summer, Sail Scotland have launched a series of aerial videos, including one of Mallaig. You can find them all on their website, https://sailscotland.co.uk/plan/aerial-guides/, and we have shared the Mallaig one on the Harbour Authority’s website and Facebook page.

Last month we were still hopeful of a late sprat fishery, but unfortunately this didn’t materialise, and the pump has now been removed for another year. At this time of year, we always do a review of the fish landings, and the graph below shows how this has changed over the last ten years:

Although landings in 2021 have improved on 2020, which was so badly impacted by the pandemic, the overall trend is still downwards. In part this reflects the reductions in the fleet based in Mallaig, and there are implications from both the pandemic and Brexit, so it will be interesting to see what the trend is in another five years!                              

The Summer timetable for the Skye and Lochboisdale ferries has now been published, and by the time you read this the Small Isles timetable will also have been published. We are looking at some temporary improvements that can be made to the marshalling area for this season until more permanent works are possible. The Loch Bhrusda is due back for the third year of the trial of additional sailings in March, and, because Easter is late and affects the MCA certification, the Loch Fyne cannot start operating until 1st April so the Loch Bhrusda will service the route on its own until then. The hope is that the Coruisk will have returned by the start of May.   

North West Marine’s ‘Meercat’, which is a fairly regular visitor to the Harbour, undertook the last of the investigative works in the Outer Breakwater on Friday 29th January and Monday 1st February, so work is still progressing in the background. We have also been granted planning permission to replace the portacabin at the Marina, and are awaiting the building warrant. Ideally we would like to have this done before the Marina opens for the season, but that might not be achievable now!

The work to create office space from the old Denholms office is also almost complete. Our intention is to lease two of the offices, and to keep the third as co-working space, which people will be able to use to hot-desk, or to book out for a meeting if required. We have some interest in the two offices at the moment, but to be open and transparent about the process, you will find an advert for the offices elsewhere in West Word. We’d like to gauge overall interest in office space locally as there may be other opportunities as we undertake the larger developments.

Sometimes it feels like I spend a lot of time filling in surveys and questionnaires to support various pieces of work. There are two of particular relevance that are open for public consultation at the moment. One of these is the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), which will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years (2022-2042). One of the recommendations is around Port Infrastructure, and in particular supporting ferry vessel renewal and replacement and progressive decarbonisation of the ferry services. Anyone can contribute to the review, which is open until 15th April 2022, via the transport.gov.scot website

https://www.transport.gov.scot/consultation/consultation-on-the-draft-second-strategic-transport-projects-review-stpr2-for-scotland/

The second review is on an updated marine litter strategy for Scotland, which has an earlier closing date of 22nd March 2022. There are five objectives for the strategy, which can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/marine-litter-strategy-scotland-consultation/pages/6/ . These objectives include; Improving public and business attitudes and behaviours around marine and coastal litter, in co-ordination with the national litter and flytipping strategy; Supporting the removal of marine litter from the marine and coastal environment; and reducing marine and coastal based sources of litter.

Both of these surveys are important to the Harbour and to the industries using the Harbour, but also to the wider community, so please, if you have an interest in either or both of these topics, take some time to complete the consultations.

Finally for this month, we are looking at implementing some traffic calming measures on the road in front of the West Bay net stores, and we would remind anyone using this road that they should do so with caution as there may be fishermen working at gear outside the stores.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2022

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Happy New Year everyone! For those lucky enough to have had a view of the Harbour at midnight on Hogmanay, we were treated to another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander, which this year was supplemented by some young local residents who had clubbed together to organise a pretty spectacular display. Between the two, some being set off from the Harbour, and some from the end of East Bay, it was a real treat to see in the New Year.

There has been no Sprat fishery to date this year, although the Caralisa changed gear again and set off on 4th January in the hope of finding some. The weather has certainly turned colder, so let’s hope this is a good sign!  

There is a bit of Déjà vu in writing this, as I’m not sure that anyone would have predicted that we would start 2022 still with the guidance to work from home where possible. The increase in Covid cases is impacting some of the services from the Harbour, including the ferries. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment around the CalMac timetable, which in the short term has been reduced to an Essential Services temporary timetable from 3rd to at least 23rd January.  Looking ahead, the Summer timetables from Mallaig are due to be published on 17th January. This is later than elsewhere in the Network and, while it should result in a better service from Mallaig to the Small Isles, Lochboisdale and Skye, it is causing some frustration for tourism businesses as it is making future planning, a challenge. If all the proposed services are implemented there will be up to 25 sailings a day from Mallaig in the height of the summer, using four different vessels, which is quite a logistical challenge for CalMac, and potentially for us on the Harbour!

Although 2021 was another disrupted year in terms of restrictions, the Harbour is fortunate to have a number of income streams, and the quieter times have allowed us to press ahead with some developments. We were lucky to receive funding from the Scottish Government towards the installation of shore power in February, funding which was made available as a result of the difficult conditions facing the fishing fleet. Although the power points were installed quickly, it took several months to get the whole system commissioned as we required an upgrade to the Harbour’s capacity.  However, all the points are now up and running and being well utilised by vessels. We were also able to install a passenger waiting shelter for the Knoydart ferry, with support from Transport Scotland’s Ferries Accessibility fund. This has been much appreciated and is a wee splash of colour on the Harbour. We also installed our LED lighting around the harbour, the start of a range of energy efficiency measures we hope to be able to implement over the next few years. Those of you who read this column regularly will also know that we have bigger plans for the Outer Breakwater, and we have almost completed the detailed design phase for these. We had to make some last-minute changes prior to submitting the Marine Licence, in order to incorporate plans for a new berth for CalMac ferries. The bathymetric survey of the Outer Harbour was undertaken in December, and there is still a small amount of investigative works to be done, hopefully in January before the works can go out to tender. Putting together a funding package for these works will be the priority for 2022, along with a replacement of the existing portacabin at the top of the Marina pontoon.

We had our final Board Meeting of the year on 10th December and were able to invite our previous Chair, Charlie King and previous Board Members, Jackie Wright and Michael Foxley to join us for a meal in the evening to mark their retirement. We had hoped to mark the occasion of Charlie’s retiral from the Board with a larger celebration, but with ongoing restrictions this was proving impossible. Gavin Davis, as current Chair, said a few words of thanks to Charlie, Michael and Jackie, and reflected on some of the highlights of Charlie’s 37 years on the Board before presenting each of them with a token of the Board’s appreciation. The Scottish Government’s ‘Modern Ports – Guidance for Good Governance’ sets a limit on the number of terms and therefore the length of time that a Board Member can serve now, and while this is good in lots of ways, and ensures there are always new ideas being generated, it does mean that no-one will have the chance to develop the same level of corporate knowledge and history that some of our previous Board Members, including Charlie, were able to. In looking through the minute books to gather some dates for Gavin’s speech, I was struck by how much some things have changed (in 1985 the Harbour Board agreed to write to the Health Authorities ‘regarding the indiscriminate wandering of sheep through the Harbour Area’) and by how much some things have stayed the same (in October 1998 ‘Mr C King intimated that a parking review of the village was currently being undertaken by The Highland Council’)! One thing that has definitely changed is the make-up of the Board. On 1st October 1993 Alison MacKenzie from Scotrail was welcomed as the first woman to sit on the Harbour Board, and now, including myself, the Board is two third’s women. I’ll leave others to make comment on that!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2021

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Although we were hopeful at the end of last month that the Sprat pump was in place, to date it has not been needed – no Sprats have been landed, and the Caralisa has taken off their Sprat gear and gone back to the prawns for now. This is disappointing as a good Sprat fishery always gives a wee boost at the end of the year, and a bit of obvious activity on the Harbour, which we are missing.

We had ‘battened down the hatches’ in advance of the storm forecast for Friday 26th November – the school children had all been sent home early (ironically on the Western Isles boat ‘Arwen’, given that was the name of the storm), and the vessels had all been moved around the Harbour and pontoons to provide as much shelter as possible. In the end, although it was pretty stormy for a time, we didn’t have it nearly as bad as the East Coast, and we are pleased to report no damage was sustained anywhere within the Harbour.

The works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings are ongoing, but they are really starting to take shape now. There has been a bit of disruption as we are taking the chance to upgrade some of the other facilities, so we have been without a ladies’ room for the last week or so – thankfully the gents have been very gracious about sharing with us!! We’re all telling ourselves that the long term benefits will be worth the short term upheaval!

I attended a virtual meeting of the Northern Lighthouse Board Users Group at the beginning of the month, and one of the topics for discussion was the replacement of one of their vessels, and how this might be powered in the future. This was timely as there was lots of discussion around COP-26 about the development of Hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and Hydrogen is certainly one of the options for vessels. The International Maritime Organisation aims to make shipping ‘net-zero’ for carbon emissions by 2050. Although this seems like a long way off, any vessels built by 2030 are likely to still be sailing in 2050, so the transition has to start soon! It’s interesting how quickly the world can change – in 2016 when we published our Masterplan, there was very limited discussion about alternative ways of fuelling vessels, and what infrastructure this might require. However, this has to be very much at the forefront of any development plans now. COP-26, although it might have felt quite remote to Mallaig, has encouraged us to put some thought into future options for reducing the carbon footprint of the Harbour and our wider users.  We have started this process in a small way with the installation of the LED lights, and the shore power points, and I’m glad to say that the upgrade to our power supply mentioned last month is complete and we now have sufficient capacity for all the shore power points to be operational. We’re really grateful to HF Group who have been very helpful throughout the process, and who worked alongside SSE to ensure everything went smoothly.  

I mentioned last month the plans for the Coruisk to return to Mallaig next season. At the moment, there is still no clarity on this, and the proposed timetables are not due to be published until mid-January. This is causing concern for Tourism businesses locally and on Skye, who are fearful that the uncertainty will lead to reduces business, especially from coach parties who like to book well in advance. At the moment, it looks like the season will start with the Loch Bhrusda and Loch Fyne covering the Mallaig/Armadale run, and the Lord of The Isles only sailing between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, but with two sailings a day on three days of the week, allowing those travelling from Lochboisdale to the mainland to make a ‘day trip’. There will be some challenges for us as a Harbour in accommodating all these vessels, so we are looking at options for some minor works that can be done to improve berthing and marshalling space in the short term.

We had another visit from the Screen Machine on the 3rd and 4th December. One of the films shown was ‘Launch! – On the Seas with Scotland’s Lifeboats’. Directed by award-winning curator Shona Thomson, the film has been two years in the making with unprecedented access to the RNLI’s own archives. 1920s film is woven with 1960s colour promos and breath-taking digital video captured by RNLI crews’ 21st century helmet cameras whilst out on the wild sea. Launch! celebrates the dedication of Scotland’s volunteer crews and the communities that support them. If you didn’t get the chance to watch it in Mallaig, you can find out more information on the website, https://launchonthesea.com/.

Finally, I’d like to thank the Harbour staff who have once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas decorations, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2021

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The year has flown in and it’s already November. The ferries are back on their Winter timetable, and although it’s welcome news that we should have the Coruisk back in Mallaig next year, there is still some uncertainty about when the Utne will enter service on the Oban-Craignure run, enabling this to happen. As a result, it is unlikely that the Summer timetables for services from Mallaig will be published at the same time as other routes. This is frustrating for our tourism businesses, as it has knock-on effects for tour companies etc. At the moment, the intention is that the Lord of the Isles will provide a dedicated service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, sailing twice a day on some days, and that the Mallaig-Armadale route will be served by the Coruisk, supported by the Loch Fyne. I don’t envy whoever has the task of making up the timetables – our wee linkspan in Mallaig will be in constant use with sailings to the Small Isles, Armadale and Lochboisdale all having to be timetabled in!

It’s the end of the season at the Marina as well, and our seasonal staff have stopped for the winter. We’re grateful to have had Gena looking after the shore facilities again, and Ruairidh stepping in to cover days off through the height of the summer. Although we still had social distancing restrictions in force for the start of the season this year, it has been a busy season, almost on a par with 2019. Overall, there were 1,405 nights occupied at the marina and 987 vessels used the facility in total this year, compared to 1,429 nights occupied and 1,125 vessels in 2019. We’ve seen a change in the usage this year, with very few foreign boats (understandably!) and more visiting yachts from the South of England who might not normally venture this far!

The Sprat pump arrived on Thursday 28th October, and was set up on Friday 29th, which is a sure sign Winter is on its way. The weather still feels quite mild for sprats, but there has been lots of birds visibly feeding in the waters round about so hopefully this is a good sign, and there will be a good fishing of Sprats!

It’s almost a year since our public meeting about the development proposals for the Outer Breakwater, and by the time you read this, our Marine Licence for the works will have been submitted. The next stage is to agree a final design and get the project out to tender. Although we had an idea of costs in January, construction prices have gone up so much since then that it’s difficult to know what the total cost might be. Putting the project out to tender will give us an accurate cost to seek funding early next year.

I had a week off in October to correspond with school holidays, and wasn’t in work when the Dunan Star foundered on rocks in Loch Nevis. Thankfully the crew were all safe, but unfortunately, when the vessel was being recovered, it sank. We have liaised with the UK Hydrographic Office to mark the position of the wreck.  We’re also pleased to report that our Lighthouse is back up and running – the replacement bulb was fitted on 15th October.

In more positive news, we are delighted that the works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings has started. Some of you will have seen the skip at the rear of the building, and lots of the initial work has been to strip out existing windows, walls and other fittings – including three safes – two of which were concreted in! Our plan is to make three smaller offices and a communal kitchen, with the intention that two of the offices will be leased long term, and the third will be used as a ‘co-working’ space where people can come and work for an hour, a day or however long they want, and there will also be scope for hosting small meetings.  

We weren’t organised enough this year to make our own Scarecrow for the Scarecrow trail, but we did host two jellyfish on the dinghy at the roundabout – so hopefully you spotted these. Thanks to Anna Fothergill for making them and sharing them with us. 

Some of you will also have seen SSE working around the pier over the last few weeks. Those of you in Mallaig will know that the power was out on 8th October, due to a number of faults, and as a result of this, the sub-station opposite the CalMac office is having to be completely replaced. We’re hopeful that the upgrade to our power supply to enable all the shore power points to be operational will happen on the back of this by mid-November.

Finally, just after I started at the Harbour, my news for September 2019 included a welcome to the soon to be renamed ‘Lucifer’ which was bought by Damian MacDonald. Damian renamed the boat the ‘Boy Harris’, and this week we watched her leave the harbour with her new owners, bound for a new home in Girvan, having been sold.    

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2021

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It’s hard to believe that we are into October – although the weather this week is definitely designed to remind us that summer is over. That said, we still have some visiting yachts at the Marina, and we have also had two Navy Patrol vessels, HMS Explorer and HMS Express, using the pontoons. At just over 20m long, these Archer class P2000 Patrol Boats are some of the smallest vessels in the fleet, and have been participating in Joint Warrior training exercises around the coast.

Some of you will already be aware that we are having difficulty with our lighthouse at the entrance to the Harbour, and it is currently unlit. A Navigational Warning has been issued, and we have finally tracked down someone to replace the lighting unit, so we are hopeful that the issue will be resolved by mid-October. In the meantime, please take extra care when entering or exiting the Harbour.   

For most of September you would have seen a platform hanging over various parts of the quay in the Outer Harbour as Holequest undertook drilling and core sampling as part of the detailed design works for the proposals to deepen the Outer Harbour and develop more quay space. Samples were taken from six different locations so that we can be certain of the depths of the existing piles holding up the breakwater and have a better understanding of the type of materials on the existing seabed within the area. This is the visible start of a programme of investigations and design works which are costing around £450k and we are grateful that HIE have approved a grant of 40% towards the costs. These works will allow us to go out to tender for the actual construction works, and give us certainty of costs to apply for funding towards the capital works – hopefully early in the next financial year.  

The Marine Management Organisation has just published their UK Fisheries Statistics for 2020. Given the ongoing decline we are seeing in the fishing industry in Mallaig, this makes for interesting reading. Headline figures are:

Landings
In 2020, UK vessels landed 623 thousand tonnes of sea fish into the UK and abroad with a value of £831 million. Compared to 2019, this is a slight increase in the quantity of sea fish landed and a 16 per cent decrease in value landed.


Fleet
Compared to 2019, the number of UK vessels has fallen by 128, a decrease of 2 per cent similar to the change between 2018 and 2019. All these vessels were under 10 metres (10m) in length. While there were some vessels over 10m decommissioned and registered in 2020, the total number remained the same as 2019.


Trade
The UK is a net importer of fish. In 2020 the UK imported 672 thousand tonnes of fish, with a value of £3,206 million. It exported 423 thousand tonnes. Compared to 2019, imports were down by 7 per cent. (The majority of our imports are from China, and the majority of our exports to France). We import more tuna and export more salmon than any other species, but the UK is also a net importer of Cod, shrimps and prawns, and a net exporter of Mackerel!

The number of fishers in the United Kingdom has steadily declined by 45 per cent since 1994 and by three-quarters since 1938.  This is a sobering statistic – in the last 27 years, the number of fishermen has declined by almost half! The report explains this in part by saying that ‘The long-term decrease in the number of fishers is associated with reductions in fleet size and the move to fewer larger vessels.  Relative to their capacity, larger vessels do not require as many fishers as small vessels.’ 

Of the four UK nations, Scotland lands the most fish by both quantity and value, and in 2020, pelagic species (mackerel and herring) made up 57% of the total quantity landed, but brought in less value than demersal landings.

In 2020 shellfish landings decreased by 18%, while their value decreased by 33%. The price per tonne for shellfish decreased 20% compared to a decrease of around 8% for both demersal and pelagic species. This was as a direct result of lockdowns – shellfish species tend to be landed and sold fresh for use in the hospitality sectors in the UK and abroad, and this market crashed as lockdowns were imposed. The demersal and pelagic sectors were impacted to a lesser extent as they are primarily for consumption in the home, and can be landed and sold frozen so are more resilient to changes in the market. Nephrops (also known as langoustine or Norway lobster), crabs and scallops are the main shellfish species landed by the UK fleet, accounting for 60% of all shellfish landings in 2020.   Landings of these three key species decreased between 2019 and 2020, the decrease in the value of Nephrops landings was the most severe at 44%.  As discussed previously, the shellfish sector has been hit the hardest by the ongoing pandemic.  

In 2020, UK vessels landed a total of 502 thousand tonnes of fish and shellfish from UK waters with a first sale value of £700 million.  By tonnage 53% of this was from the Northern North Sea; mackerel and herring made up 70% of those landings whereas haddock, whiting, cod, monkfish and saithe combined accounted for a further 19% of the total UK landings from UK waters of the Northern North Sea. This is reflected in the fact that Peterhead was once again the busiest port, with £153.9million of landings, followed by Lerwick, Scrabster and Fraserburgh.

There’s a much higher level of detail in the report, but the statistics above give some context to the reduction in fishing not just in Mallaig, but in many smaller ports around the country as fishing effort changes and becomes more concentrated around fewer larger vessels and ports.

Jacqueline McDonell

Navigational Warning

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There is an issue with the (Sgeir Dhearg) lighthouse on the approach to the Harbour at the moment, so it is currently unlit. A Navigational Warning has been issued but please take extra care when entering the Harbour. https://www.admiralty.co.uk/…/radio-navigational-warnings

WZ 1018/21221120 UTC Sep 21SCOTLAND, WEST COAST. Sound of Sleat. Sgeir Dhearg Light, unlit.
UK CoastalWZ 1018/21221120 UTC Sep 21SCOTLAND, WEST COAST. Sound of Sleat.Sgeir Dhearg Light, 57-00.6N 005-49.6W, unlit.

News from Mallaig Harbour: September 2021

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It’s a slow news month at the Harbour, with lots of background work going on for various projects, but nothing much to report!

Looking back at last year’s news, last August was a month of celebrities and dolphins. We haven’t had the celebrities this year, but there has been a lot of wildlife around again, with lots of sightings of dolphins from Western Isles Cruises and Minch Adventures amongst others, and even some minke whales visible just outside the harbour mid-month.

The amazing weather has continued throughout August, which has kept the Marina busy. To the end of August, over 800 visiting vessels have used the Marina this season. Considering we weren’t able to operate at full capacity for much of the summer, this compares well with the 2019 figure for the whole season of 1,125, and is certainly a lot more than last year’s total of 360! We’ve been looking at making some improvements at the Marina, and have submitted planning permission to replace the portacabin ‘office’ with a more permanent wooden structure, which will give a bit more space and be a bit more welcoming.

Regulations have continued to ease this month, and Sail Scotland, along with Wild Scotland have been in discussion with the Scottish Government about the future development and growth of the marine and outdoors sector. This is an important sector of the economy for this area as a whole and people are being encouraged to register their interest in the process at https://bts.scot/outdoors-scotland-strategy/get-in-touch/

We have also been circulated details of the £800,000 COVID-19 Marine and Outdoor Tourism Restart Fund: Round Two, which is being delivered by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. The fund is open from 8th September to 29th September, The Fund is intended to provide support to marine and outdoor tourism businesses who have been significantly affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19).   Round Two is to specifically support Scottish-based businesses in the marine and outdoor tourism sector that have faced hardship due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help keep them in business as they recommence operations, and you can find more details of this on the VisitScotland website.

As a member of the British Ports Association, we get regular updates from them, and one of these was a summary of the SNP and Scottish Green’s draft policy programme, which includes a commitment from both parties to a Natural Environment Bill, under which there will be a set of legally binding targets to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity by 2030, including marine habitats. Their plans include adding to the existing MPA network by designating Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of Scotland’s seas. There is also an intention to take specific, evidence-based measures to protect the inshore seabed in areas outwith these designations. To do this they will consult on a number of proposals, including:

 – applying a cap to fishing activity in inshore waters (up to three nautical miles) that will limit activity to current levels and set a ceiling from which activities that disrupt the seabed can be reduced in the light of evidence as it becomes available,

 – keeping that limit under review, pending fuller consideration and gathering of evidence to underpin any further actions required to protect inshore marine habitats. These could span a suite of options and could potentially include spatial management measures if suggested by the evidence,

 – through this system, providing access only to vessels that hold a licence which has a historic track record of fishing activity in inshore waters over a recent reference period,

– in the first instance and in the interests of delivering this as soon as possible, bringing this measure into effect by varying certain existing licence conditions pending the introduction of appropriate legislative measures, and

– also reviewing the status of any unused ‘latent’ scallop fishing entitlements. Where no investment has already been made to activate that entitlement, such as vessel conversion in cases where an owner has committed to changing fishing method, these entitlements would be revoked.

As a fishing Harbour, we will be interested in how these proposals develop, and will keep you all informed! 

We are also continuing to work away in the background with the plans for the Outer Harbour Development, and have commissioned some ground investigation works to start 6th September. These will include boreholes, which will be drilled from a cantilever platform on the edge of the quay in six locations along the inner edge of the outer breakwater, and 4 grab samples to be taken from a small boat. We have issued a Notice to Mariners about the works, which are due to last until the end of September, and this can be viewed in the Notice to Mariners section of the website.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2021

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We were all saddened, both personally and professionally, by the tragic death of Lachie Robertson on Thursday 24th June. It puts into perspective the reality of the fishing industry, and the dangers our fishermen face, but also reminds us of what an amazing community we live in, where everyone rallies round. Kenna and Rachael allowed floral tributes to be left on the Reul a’Chuain over the weekend, and the sheer number of flowers and the thoughtful messages left with them are testament to the character that Lachie was. He will be sorely missed around the Harbour and our deepest sympathies are with his family. 

Much of the work that was being undertaken around the Harbour and was mentioned last month is now complete. New markings have been painted around the Harbour, including some more parking spaces between the Prawn Market and the Co-op. We’ve had lots of enquiries about these, but effectively these were not ‘new’ spaces, but spaces required when we had to re-organise elsewhere, so unfortunately, the waiting list for parking is still as long as ever!

Friday 18th June was our AGM, and the end of an era as we had to say goodbye to Charlie King; Michael Foxley and Jackie Wright who had all served their maximum three terms as Board Members. In Charlie and Michael’s case, their association with the Harbour goes back much longer. Looking back at minutes, Charlie first attended a meeting of Mallaig Harbour (representing Mallaig Community Council) on 24th May 1984. Michael was also first on the Board of Mallaig Harbour 35 years ago, and with a break of five years has been involved ever since! The continuing restrictions meant that we couldn’t mark this occasion in the way we would have liked, but hopefully we will be able to acknowledge their contribution later in the year. Charlie’s support as Chair has been invaluable in the two years since I took over, and I suspect that there will be a few ongoing occasions when we need his advice!

With three retirals, we have appointed three new Board Members, David MacDonald, Sandra McLean and Helen Webb. We have also appointed Gavin Davis as Chair, and Nikki Robertson as Vice-Chair.

The AGM also sees the approval of the accounts, and some extracts from the Annual Report are included below:

Port Usage

A monthly average of 55 vessels of varying types made use of the Harbour, a lower number than last year’s average of 62. This excludes Marina usage by visiting vessels, which is documented elsewhere.

Fish Landings/Dues

After two months of bad weather at the start of the year, our fishing fleet had just returned to sea when markets crashed due to the impact of Coronavirus. The fleet tied up on 24th March, and fishing was sporadic for the remainder of the year. Issues associated with Brexit also impacted on the fishing fleet, with exports to Europe being affected from January to March 2021. Fishing Landing volumes and monetary values for the current year, the two previous years plus two other random years (for comparative purposes) are listed:

Volume in tonnes
Year ended 31st MarchHerringSprats/ MackerelWhitefishShellfishTotal Value
202108944330£1,665,804
20200121292683£4,480,546
201900397752£4,746,544
19844051,5825,3731,055£5,195,726
19789,48310,4253,712887£7,640,036

Quayside prices were slightly up for white fish, but significantly down for shellfish, which, along with the significant reductions in landings meant that the total value of landings was less than 40% of the previous year. 

Year end 31st March 2021:   Whitefish  £1,990 per tonne    Shellfish  £3,924 per tonne

Year end 31st March 2020:   Whitefish  £1,757 per tonne    Shellfish  £5,330 per tonne

Mallaig Harbour Ice

The ice plant is now fully commissioned, but still not operational on a self-service basis.

Over the year, we have sold 644 tonnes of ice, approximately half the amount sold in 2019/20 – again due to the issues associated with the fishing industry.

Fish Feed

During the year ending March 2020, 30,140 tonnes of fish feed was shipped through Mallaig, a reduction of 1/3 on the previous year.

This reflects changes in the market… As a result of the reduction… Cargill (EWOS) withdrew their large vessel, the Aqua Senior, from the West Coast from September 2020, and contracted with local suppliers Ferguson Transport and Inverlussa Marine to deliver feed.

CalMac/Tourism

The pandemic had a significant impact on ferry sailings throughout the CalMac network over the year, and Mallaig was no exception. Having begun a trial of additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale on 6th March 2020, the first of a three-year pilot, sailings were suspended as restrictions were imposed on 23rd March. From this time until 1st July there were no sailings between Mallaig and Armadale or Mallaig and Lochboisdale and a reduced ‘Lifeline Ferry Service’ operated to the Small Isles.

There is still a local issue with the vessels used for the Mallaig/Armadale route, which are unsatisfactory, and result in a number of sailings being cancelled each year due to tidal issues. However, this requires a longer-term and more strategic solution, outwith the shorter term issues associated with the pandemic.

CalMac have published carrying date for the calendar year 2020, and a comparison with 2019, and the relevant figures are included below.

  Mallaig – ArmadaleMallaig- LochboisdaleMallaig – Small Isles
Passengers202052,5878,8846,333
 2019305,43929,22230,503
 % reduction82.78%69.6%79.2%
Cars202019,7774,1862,479
 201975,76911,4961,804
 % reduction73.9%63.6%37.4%
Coaches20202220
 20192,42934 
 % reduction99%94.1% 
Commercial Vehicles202038164145
 2019131345186
 % reduction71%52.5%22%

Armadale and Mallaig STAG

Subsequent to the publication of the completed STAG appraisal in April 2020, CMAL issued a statement in August that more clarity was required on vessel requirements before they would progress with the business case for Armadale. This issue is obviously important for the Mallaig development too, so we have paused any further preparatory work on the redevelopment of the ferry terminal awaiting further information on future vessel deployment. 

Yachting

Covid-19 also impacted on the Marina, which wasn’t able to open until mid-July 2020, and even then, with restricted capacity. As a result, numbers were much lower than in previous years. Overnight occupancy was approximately 1/3 of what would normally be expected. July saw 129 overnight stays over the two week period the Marina was open, (498 for the whole of July 2019) and August 247 (290 the previous year). September 2020 saw 93 overnight stays, significantly higher than 2019’s figure of 59.  

In addition to the above a further 22 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina (56 in 2019).

Developments/Future Considerations

In the longer term, delivery of the Masterplan proposals remains MHA’s primary objective, but the timescales and challenges associated with this are recognised, and there are a number of shorter-term projects which can be delivered, and which will contribute to the overall vision contained within the Masterplan.

We have commissioned our Harbour Engineers, Wallace Stone, to progress a project to redevelop an area of the Outer Breakwater to ‘shovel ready’ stage. The intention would be to provide 60m of additional quay space and 4,000m2 of additional laydown space. We are also looking at dredging the Harbour to provide deeper berthing. The project is going through the Marine Licensing process at the moment. This would be a significant development, costing c.£10million but would alleviate some of the capacity constraints the Harbour is facing in the shorter term. Two of the projects identified as outstanding last year, a new pier side shed and new workshop, will be incorporated into this larger development.

The requirements for social distancing have highlighted the inadequacy of the existing ‘portacabin’ Marina Office, and we are looking at various options to replace this with a more permanent, and slightly larger structure over the next year.

Developments

Energy Efficiency: Energy Efficient LED light fittings have been ordered to replace the existing sodium fittings throughout the Harbour. Delays in the manufacture caused by difficulties sourcing raw materials mean that these will be installed in the first quarter of 2021/22.

Denholms Office and Ice Factory: Quotes have been received to convert the empty upstairs office in the Harbour Buildings formerly leased to Denholm Fishselling into three smaller offices and to provide improved welfare facilities for those based in the building, including Mallaig Harbour Authority. Development of the old Ice Factory will be considered as part of the wider ‘Outer Breakwater’ development.

Re-facing of the ‘Splay Berth’

Re-facing of the Splay Berth was completed in March 2021, after work was delayed due to Covid-19. At the same time, bollards and ladders within the Outer Breakwater were renewed. 

Passenger Shelter:

Following requests from the South Knoydart Community Council, Mallaig Harbour Authority made a successful application to Transport Scotland’s Ferries Accessible Fund to install a passenger shelter and purchase some ancillary equipment including wheelchairs and luggage trollies for those passengers making use of the passenger access pontoon. At the year end, the Shelter was in manufacture, due to be installed early May 2021.

Shore Power:

We successfully applied to the Scottish Government’s Marine Fisheries Fund for £207,000 to install Shore Power points, primarily for the fishing industry. A total of seven access towers with a combination of three-phase and single-phase connections will provide 28 connection points for commercial vessels using the Harbour. 

Jacqueline McDonell