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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

News from Mallaig Harbour: June 2021

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There is a definite buzz about the Harbour this month, with much more activity throughout. Part of this is Development Activity – including the works to the RNLI pontoon. The new pontoon arrived on the 2nd June so if you have ever wondered what a pontoon looks like out of the water, we’ve included a photo of it on the back of the lorry.

 We are also amazed at the volume of building materials heading to Knoydart and the Small Isles. The miles and miles of pipework for the hydro on Knoydart is particularly impressive! 

There are more fishing boats in the Harbour, and more landings, which we are glad to see. The hot weather means that the boats need more ice, so even the increase in ice orders being phoned through to the office is hopefully an indication that things are improving for the fishing industry. Some of you may have seen the press release issued by Marine Scotland about the funding for our shore power – which I mentioned last month. We had to take some photos for this, so in case you haven’t noticed the new boxes, this is what they look like. We’ve already had a wee incident with one of them, so we’ve ordered some yellow barriers to make them more obvious!

Our passenger shelter has already been well used, and we have had permission from Transport Scotland to purchase a bike rack, so this and the luggage rack will be added. As part of the grant conditions, we have to gather feedback from users on the shelter. To do this, we have set up a very short questionnaire, which you can access online –  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XT93873. You are also welcome to email us at the Harbour Office with any comments or suggestions about the shelter.

It has been lovely to welcome back some visiting yachts to the Marina, and it has been getting steadily busier throughout May. Although the shore facilities are open, we can only have one crew at a time using them, so we are asking crews to book. This, and the other COVID-19 protocols are available on our website and on our Facebook page.

2nd June was the first day of the Lord of The Isles resuming its regular sailings from Mallaig for the summer, after the Loch Seaforth returned to service on Monday 31st May. Unfortunately, there are ongoing issues at both Muck and Eigg which mean that the Small Isles timetables are liable to disruption at short notice so it’s not quite ‘back to normal’ just yet.

Last month we were hopeful that it would be third time lucky for the Screen Machine, and we are pleased to report that it was, and that we welcomed the Screen Machine back for three nights from 20th to 22nd May. They are also operating at limited capacity, and were originally only due to show films on two nights, but had to add an extra date due to demand – so obviously we weren’t the only ones pleased to have them back!   

Our AGM is due to be held on Friday 18th June. Given the ongoing restrictions, we have decided to postpone the public meeting until September, when we should be able to meet in person and provide some more details about the developments at various stages around the Harbour.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: May 2021

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Things are slowly getting back to normal around the Harbour, with a bit more activity than in previous months.

We’ve re-opened the Marina, from 26th April, with additional COVID-19 protocols in place. We’ve welcomed back Gena MacLean for the season, and although it has been a quiet start, with only one or two yachts each day, we’re delighted to be able to accommodate yachts again, and it’s nice to hear the extra ‘chatter’ on the VHF. We’re aware that the Government is encouraging anyone travelling to the islands to take a COVID-19 test prior to going, so we are encouraging those travelling by yacht to do the same.

The CalMac Summer timetable began on 26th April, although the issues with the Loch Seaforth mean that the Lord of the Isles is operating from Oban until at least 17th May, which means that there is no Mallaig/Lochboisdale service at the moment, and only the Loch Fyne is operating from Mallaig, restricting capacity on the Mallaig/Armadale route. This year’s timetable was scheduled to have less sailings than previous years, with the Lord of the Isles departing earlier in the afternoon for Lochboisdale, so it will be interesting to see the impact of this on tourism locally as the season progresses. Western Isles Cruises begin running their full timetable on 3rd May, but with changes to the one-hour cruises to reflect the change in the Steam Train times, so check the website to book!  

The passenger shelter has been installed, and we have purchased transit wheelchairs and two trollies to help with transporting shopping and luggage up and down the ramp. The storage shed for these is en-route, but won’t arrive until June, so bear with us until then! Niki Robertson worked with Falco to come up with the design for the shelter – which we are delighted with – so hopefully the users will agree!

The shore power ‘boxes’ are another new addition to the pier and will take a wee bit of getting used to in terms of vehicle movements around them. We’re very grateful to Paul and Owen Harrold, and to HF Electrical, who have pulled out all the stops to deliver the system within the tight timescale imposed for us to access the funding. Ian Coates kindly gave us a copy of the booklet produced for the inauguration of the New Harbour Facilities for Fishing Vessels on 20th September 1972. Under ‘Lighting and Electrical Work’, the booklet states that, “The whole harbour electrical system has been renewed…. A new switchroom adjacent to the ice factory on the Steamer Pier distributes the incoming supply to the lighting system and new buildings. The switchroom also houses two D.C. rectifier units for shore to ship supply. Ducts in the new pier carry relayed TV to ship connection points at 5O ft. Centres. It must have been very modern at the time – almost 50 years on and we have just installed new shore power.  No need for the relayed TV though – who would have imagined 50 years ago that TV would be beamed wirelessly from satellites, and that you could watch programmes on your phone!  

This month we have been awarded funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise towards the pre-construction costs associated with the proposed development in the Outer Harbour. This will allow us to undertake some more preparatory work, including more investigation to see how deeply the Harbour could be dredged, with a view to tenders being ready to be issued in November. The Marine Licencing process is ongoing in the background, and we are hopeful that this will be resolved by the time tenders are issued. We will then be in a position to assemble a funding package for the project. In the meantime, we are continuing to progress smaller developments such as those mentioned above, as and when we can.   

The timetable for easing of restrictions in Scotland highlighted 17th May as a potential date for cinemas to re-open, and we are keeping everything crossed that this is the case, as Mallaig is scheduled for a visit from the Screen Machine at the end of that week. Our previous two scheduled visits have had to be cancelled – in November because of the weather, and in January because of the lockdown so let’s hope that it’s third time lucky!

Our AGM is due to be held on Friday 18th June. This meeting is open to the public, and if at all possible, we would like to host it in person. We’ll provide more details next month, and on our Facebook page nearer the time, but if you are interested in what is going on, then please make a note of the date now.  

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: April 2021

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We are continuing to progress with projects around the Harbour, and since last month, we have been fortunate enough to be successful in our application to the Scottish Government for funds to install shore power for the fishing fleet. This fund had a very quick turnaround, with works to be complete within the financial year, but it’s something that fishermen have been requesting for a number of years, so it’s great to finally have the funds to make it a reality. There are 6 ‘towers’, each with a combination of single phase and three phase connection points, in the scheme, which was designed based on the requirements of the local fishing fleet.

There has been no secret over the last few months about the difficulties the fishing industry has been facing, so it was interesting that a relative of mine came across this article from 17th July 1894 as part of a scrapbook in Cockenzie House, and was kind enough to send it up.

“Mr William Anderson Smith, Commissioner for the Fishery Board of Scotland said there was a great difference between herring caught on the west as compared to those got on the east coast. The former were too rich, and would not stand carriage either in a fresh or salted condition. They had to be sent to markets near at hand. The west coast crabs were too small to be of any value, and as for the west coast cod, they were not worth much more than 4d as compared with 2s 4d got for cod on the east coast, as they were small and of inferior quality. The effort of the government to turn the Crofters into fishermen had not been a success. Upwards of £30,000 had been invested with the object in view but it had been an absolute failure. He did not believe they had created a single new fisherman, and the bulk of the boats had been thrown back on their hands. The Crofter stuck to his land and would do nothing else. There had been much less fishing throughout the West since the date of the Crofter’s Act. The security of tenure on their crofts had made them less desirous to fish, and on those boats where one of the crew was a crofter, he frequently kept the boat from going to sea, as he devoted his time to the land. The fishing in the West Highlands had for years been decreasing, and they had now to face competition with Norway and Sweden, which reduced the price of second-class fish. The white fishing inside the Hebrides was of no value at all. The fish were so full of roe that they would not carry to market, and even if the Mallaig line were made, the fish would be of little value to the Southern markets. The bulk of the people in the district to be affected would not go to sea. He had a very poor opinion of Mallaig as a place for a Harbour; and, as a Fishery Commissioner would decline to grant it any money to convert it into a fishing harbour….

In further examination [he] said he did not think this Mallaig line would benefit the West Highlands”

Thankfully, someone disagreed and Mallaig benefitted from both the Harbour and the Railway not long after!

We are hopeful that the Marina will re-open from 26th April in line with the easing of restrictions, but we are awaiting further guidance on this mid-April. CalMac have published their summer timetables, which are also due to start on 26th April. Although there is obviously a bit of nervousness about restrictions easing, it will be nice to see a bit more activity on the visitor side. There has been lots of freight activity on the Harbour recently, with loads of plant and equipment heading to Knoydart in preparation for the works on the Hydro scheme, and all the materials needed for a new house build on Knoydart too. It’s one of the perks of having an office overlooking the Harbour that you get to see all the comings and goings for building projects on Knoydart and the Small Isles!  We’re often first to know about any filming going on locally as they request permissions to film on the Harbour, and by the time you read this, Sandi Toksvig will have been filmed for the next series of her ‘Great Escapes’. Hopefully the weather will have been kind to her and her crew!

It’s also the time of year where we advertise for new Board Members, and you will see the advert in the vacancies section of the web site. When Mallaig Harbour Authority was reconstituted in 2012, in line with Scottish Government guidance, the new constitution allowed for Board Members to serve two, three-year terms; and under exceptional circumstances, a third term. At the end of their second term, Board Members were in the midst of the development of the Masterplan, and it was agreed that they should serve a third term to see the Masterplan published. However, we are now at the stage where all the original Board Members who began in 2012 will have retired this year. Board Members are not directly involved in the operations of the Harbour, but provide support and guidance on the strategic direction of the Harbour Authority, including future plans. Although there are some uncertainties about vessel deployment which need to be resolved before the business case for the new Breakwater proposed by the Masterplan can be made, we have a number of shorter-term development plans, including the Outer Breakwater Development. We have three vacancies to fill, and if you would be interested in becoming a Board Member, I’d be happy to talk through what it involves.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2021

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We are still under the ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions as I write, so staffing remains the same as last month, with the office closed – although there is normally someone in, and less staff on the Pier than there would be normally.

Last March we were encouraging everyone to make use of the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale, which were to be trialled in March 2020, March 2021 and March 2022. As some of you will be aware, CalMac had been asked to look at potential reductions to the timetable throughout the Network whilst restrictions are still in place. One result of this is that the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale will not go ahead this year. Given that our Tourism businesses are still closed and that travel remains for essential purposes only, it would have been difficult to justify these additional sailings, which require an additional vessel to operate. Latest information is that the Winter timetables will be extended to 25th April, with a review mid-March into what the timetables should be from 26th April.

This month has consisted of a lot of background work into the various developments that we hope to undertake around the Harbour. It’s felt like slow progress at times, as everything is so interlinked, but hopefully by the end of the summer you will be starting to notice some visible progress with things like the passenger shelter at the new pontoon and new road markings, especially throughout the ferry marshalling area, which are all part of the traffic management plan for the ferries. One immediate impact from this traffic management plan was CalMac relocating the freight store for the Small Isles to behind the CalMac office, which is designed to reduce the number of delivery vans and lorries having to cross the marshalling area during the busy summer months. Although it might seem strange that the works are getting done now, when the ferry has never been so quiet, it’s a good opportunity to do them with minimum disruption.

The difficulties for our fishing industry associated with Brexit have been well documented, and last month I outlined the impact there has been on landings in Mallaig, mainly due to Coronavirus, but with Brexit as an added layer of complications. Whilst those in the industry were all aware that there would be an increase in paperwork associated with Brexit, the volume and complexity of this paperwork has caused significant issues over the last couple of months. For our smaller vessels, whose catch is likely to end up on a lorry with catch from several other vessels, this has been a particular problem. Whilst the paperwork is designed to provide traceability from the vessel to the final market, and is all well intentioned, the practicalities of adhering to it meant that in January exporters combining catches from several vessels into one consignment shut down their operations for a period, effectively meaning that there was no market for the catch being landed. This has now eased to an extent, but prices are still low. At the beginning of February, the Scottish Government announced additional funding which included £6.45 million for the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund to directly support fishing vessels and aquaculture businesses; £300,000 to assist the welfare and support activities of the Fishermen’s Mission; and £1million to support the investment plans of ports and harbours. Mallaig Harbour Authority has successfully applied for £180,000 to install shore power for our fishing fleet, which has to be spent by the end of the financial year.  

On 20th February, we welcomed the Ronja Christopher for her first visit to Mallaig. The Ronja Christopher one of the latest additions to the Sølvtrans fleet, built in 2020, and was in Mallaig to load smolts. She is 70m long, with a beam of 18m, so is one of the largest in the fleet.

Last month’s Westword (our local Community Newspaper) included a consultation from Mallaig Community Council about parking in Mallaig. As a Harbour, we know that this is a contentious issue. Mallaig wasn’t designed for the number of vehicles that are on the road now, and the village is also in the unique position of having a number of communities (Small Isles and Knoydart) who have to park in Mallaig in addition to the more local residents. Over the years, the Harbour has had a number of requests for additional parking, and we did have a request from the Community Council in December to consider creating additional parking as part of the new development that we have been discussion for the Outer Harbour. Mallaig Harbour already provides in excess of 85 parking spaces, mainly on a permit system, and we have a waiting list for these spaces, so we know that there is demand for more. These spaces are used by Harbour users, including fishermen; local businesses; and residents from the Small Isles and Knoydart. However, providing car parking is not actually an efficient use of Harbour land either in terms of the commercial demands on the limited space we have, or the income to Mallaig Harbour. As a result, we are not intending to provide any additional parking, except to service new buildings that might come about as part of the new development. We would encourage everyone with an interest to make their views known, as it all helps the Community Council strengthen any case for additional parking to Highland Council and the Scottish Government.   

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2021

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I wrote last month’s news between Christmas and New Year, before the new restrictions had been imposed on us all, so by the time you read it, it would have already been out of date! Most of our staff are now working part-time and are back on furlough for the remaining hours. This means that, although there are usually two members of staff on the Harbour, it might take us a bit longer than usual to get things done. The office is closed, but someone will be in and out periodically, and you can still contact us by phone or email. It is slightly different to the first lockdown, in that the ferries are still operating and the fishing boats are not tied up in the way they were last March, but it’s still much quieter than we would expect.

Because I wrote last month’s piece before New Year, I also didn’t get the chance to thank the crew of the Ronja Commander for their amazing fireworks display at midnight on Hogmanay. Those of us who are lucky enough to overlook the Harbour were treated to almost 10 minutes of fireworks, which was definitely the highlight of an otherwise very strange Hogmanay!

The Sprat fishery continued into January, with the last landings on the evening of Tuesday 12th January. I mentioned last month the uncertainty around Brexit, and the difficult start to the year has been well documented elsewhere, but I have spent quite a bit of this month gathering facts and figures to evidence calls for support for the fishing industry. The issues around paperwork and difficulties exporting have added an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging market for our fishermen. We now have all the landing figures for the year, and for calendar year 2019, landings through Mallaig totalled £4,768million, £3.919million of which was shellfish, £525k white fish, and £325k pelagic. In 2020 the equivalent figure was £1,402million, of which £1.084million was shellfish, £88k White fish and £231k pelagic. This is a reduction of 70% in a year, and while it impacts on the Harbour, it has much wider impacts for the community, and all those connected to the fishing fleet.  

In more positive news, we have been awarded funding through the Ferries Accessible fund to install a passenger shelter at the top of the new passenger pontoon. We’ve commissioned Falco, who installed the shelters for CalMac in 2019, and we’re hopeful of having the shelter installed in the Spring. Thanks to those on Knoydart and the Small Isles, and the Lochaber Disability Access Panel who have been working with us, and who provided letters of support for our applications.

We have also received information on the COVID-19 Marine and Outdoor Tourism Restart Fund, which is intended to provide support to marine and outdoor tourism businesses significantly affected by COVID-19 and are faced with seasonal re-commissioning and re-start costs ahead of the 2021 season. The guidance document is now available to check if you’re eligible – https://www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/funding/marine-outdoor-restart-fund. It’s a short turnaround from when the fund opens for applications at 12pm on 2 February until it closes at 5pm on 9 February, so worth looking at beforehand.

Finally, just a wee reminder to parents that if your children are playing on the pier, especially in the evenings when boats are landing, please remind them to keep out of the way of where boats are landing and forklifts operating – for their own safety!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2021

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When I looked back on last January’s news, it started with ‘Happy New Year’. I don’t think any of us could have predicted then just what a strange year it would become! We have been relatively fortunate at Mallaig Harbour Authority and have continued to operate throughout the year, providing essential services for both the fishing and aquaculture industries, and also infrastructure for the lifeline ferry services that operate from Mallaig. Although we furloughed some of our staff during the initial lockdown, since August all have been back at work.

The Sprat fishery has continued throughout December, it’s been a bit patchy, but overall fairly successful. I know Robert has the landing figures elsewhere in WestWord so I won’t repeat them here. However, some of you may have seen the photos of the old scallop nets and lanterns which became entangled in the sprat nets mid-month. These were from an early attempt at scallop farming and had been abandoned around 20 years ago, with no warning that they were on the sea bed. They caused a lot of damage to the sprat nets, and put the boats at significant risk – they were fortunate that it was a calm night and they were able to haul the nets aboard, albeit totally entangled. There are always debates about aquaculture and fishing co-existing, and about the amount of waste in the seas, and this was a stark example of waste from one industry causing damage and incurring costs for another.

The Sprats have been a welcome boost to the end of year fishing. January and February of 2020 brought stormy weather, and the boats were just getting back to sea in March when lockdown began and the markets crashed meaning that the boats were tied up once again. As a result, this has been one of the poorest years ever for fish landings. The announcement of a trade deal with the EU on 24th December means that, outwith coronavirus restrictions, access to markets in the EU will be maintained, but the restrictions around catching and quotas etc. have still to be finalised as I am writing this.

Looking back at the year, it’s not just the fishing that has been much quieter. Although the figures for CalMac ferry carryings have not been published for 2020 yet, we know that these are well down because of restrictions. As an example, in August 2019, 64,444 passengers travelled through Mallaig, and 14,015 cars. The equivalent figures for August 2020 were 22,247 passengers and 7,808 cars. Given that this was the first full month that restrictions were eased, it shows the scale of the difference. Cal Mac have published their timetable for the coming season, which is broadly similar to previous years (excluding the restrictions of 2020), with both the Lord of the Isles and the Loch Fyne sailing from Mallaig to Armadale, but with the LoTI returning earlier to Lochboisdale so doing one less sailing to Armadale (2 instead of 3) and the Loch Fyne also doing one less sailing between Mallaig and Armadale each afternoon (presumably to allow the LoTI to load the Lochboisdale vehicles at the earlier time in Mallaig). There are also almost 60 days of tidal restrictions throughout the summer timetable. The reduction in sailings results in a reduction of car spaces available from 726 daily in 2019 to 556 in 2021, a reduction of 23.5%. However, given the ongoing uncertainties about travel, this may not have too big an impact. Positively, the trial of additional sailings in March is continuing this year, with a minimum of 4 sailings each day from 1st to 25th March, and as many as seven return journeys on some days. You can find details of these at https://www.calmac.co.uk/mallaig-armadale-additional-sailings-march-2021

 We did also manage a short season at the Marina, from the end July to October, with a total of 547 occupied nights and 359 vessels. This compares to a total of 1,429 occupied nights and 1,069 vessels in 2019 – approximately 1/3 in 2020. We know that the Marina season normally starts April, and that May, June and July are busy months for us, so again this is not surprising!

Work has been ongoing in the background on the proposed development for the Outer Breakwater, with a dive team visiting in early December to do some work on the feasibility of dredging the Outer Harbour to make it slightly deeper. We were also successful in our application for a loan from the Energy Savings Trust to convert all the Harbour lighting to LED. This is the first step in reducing our carbon footprint and improving energy efficiency at the harbour. The marine grade LED fittings need to be manufactured to order so there is a long lead time, but we hope to have all the lighting converted by early Spring.

We have also finally completed some of the maintenance works that were postponed due to lockdown in March, with the facings replaced on the Loch Nevis berth and replacement and repairs to ladders and bollards in the Outer Harbour.

Our Harbour staff once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas lights and the tree early in December so thanks to them for doing this.

I also started last January’s news by mentioning that we had been due a visit from the Screen Machine which had been cancelled due to stormy weather. This January we were also due a visit on 6th and 7th but this has obviously been cancelled due to the new restrictions in force since Boxing Day. The November visit had to be cancelled because the ferry was unable to sail, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we are able to welcome back Screen Machine!

I’ll end by wishing everyone a Happy New Year this month, lets hope 2021 becomes a bit better year than 2020 did. Hopefully the calm, clear weather so far is a good omen! 

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2020

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The month started with our public meeting on Thursday 5th November as part of the Marine Licencing process for the Outer Harbour Development. Although the formal consultation period has now passed, the information is still online, you can access this through our website, and if anyone has any comments, then please feel free to send them to me. We’ve been having conversations with some of the key users of the Harbour to see what their requirements might be for any new development. There will obviously be financial constraints to what we can and can’t do, but any feedback allows us think strategically about the development.

November has seen the Outer Harbour being very busy with Aquaculture vessels, reinforcing the need for additional berthing and quay space. In some instances this has been due to vessels seeking shelter from the bad weather, but there have been a range of activities ongoing throughout the month. 

The first landing of Sprats was 5th November, and the fishery has continued throughout the month – the weather hasn’t been very consistent, but there have been some landings so it at least has been a bit of a boost to the end of the year. The sprat pump and the way they are landed always generates a lot of interest and activity on the Harbour.

Although the Marina is technically closed, we had a yacht arrived on Sunday 15th November, which was accompanying a Stand up Paddleboarder! Jordan Wylie is attempting to circumnavigate Great Britain on a Stand Up Paddleboard, raising money for Frontline Children. As he reached Mallaig, he was on day 114, and had travelled just over 2,000km! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t kind that week, and there were a few days that he was unable to make progress. If you want to follow Jordan’s progress, you can do so at www.thegreatbritishpaddle.com.

We also had the ‘Orca III’, the latest addition to the Mallaig Marine fleet on the pontoons for a few days.

We were due a visit from the Screen Machine this month, but unfortunately the weather scuppered this too, as the ferries were cancelled. I suspect that we must be the only place on the mainland that the Screen Machine can’t access without coming by ferry!

Some of you may have seen the posts from Lochaber Archive Centre in October, some of which focussed on Mallaig and the Harbour. There were two entries from the Mallaig Police Daily Occurrence Book. The first was from 27th July 1914 and states that the Skipper of a steam drifter had ‘called at my station, and reported to me that two herring nets belonging to him had been maliciously cut with a knife while … drying on an old mast on the fore-shore at Mallaig, value for £2:13: each, found no trace.’  This generated a fair bit of discussion in the office about nets drying around the Harbour – something I can’t remember, but some of you might!

The second entry dates from 07th September 1914. PC MacLean records:

‘…At 11am received a telephone message from Mr Durie, Stationmaster, Morar, that two men who had the appearance of Spys were then at Morar, photographing Morar Bridge etc. I proceeded there and on making enquiry learned they were two Glasgow men who had a Yacht in Mallaig harbour.’

It’s interesting to think that yachts were arriving in Mallaig over 100 years ago – no dedicated shore facilities for them then!

 Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour:

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It definitely feels like Winter has arrived – the Marina is now closed for the Season and CalMac are back on their winter timetables, so after what has felt like a very short season, things have quietened off again. The weather over the last two weeks of October was awful, which felt like it brought everything to a halt anyway! On the positive side, the Sprat Pump has been installed on the Harbour, and two of the local boats, the Caralisa and the Rebecca Jeneen are all geared up for the Sprat fishery, and hopeful of starting on 2nd November.

We’ve been getting used to the changes to the fish feed loading this month – with the Aqua Senior away, we have more regular but much smaller loadings of feed onto Ferguson’s Shipping landing crafts, rather than one large loading every few days as it was with the ‘Aqua Senior’.

Some of you may have noticed our Harbour Scarecrow which was part of the Scarecrow Trail – we made him from buoys, and called him ‘Bobby Buoy’ – it was great to see so many scarecrows throughout the area – especially when we have been unable to have any other community events this year.

By the time you read this, STV will have shown ‘Don’t Rock the Boat’ which filmed in Mallaig in August. At the time, we weren’t allowed to share this photo, as it was still a secret as to who was in which team, but it’s too good a photo not to share now!

Our public meeting on the proposals to develop more space in the Outer Harbour took place on 5th November, and you can view the presentation and download a copy of the consultation questionnaire from Affric’s website. http://www.affriclimited.co.uk/News/Consultations.php.

Our intention is to reclaim the area of the Outer Harbour that was previously earmarked for a relocation of the boatyard. We have considered various designs, but the existing construction of the breakwater is such that the most cost-effective design is to take a diagonal line from behind the old ice factory to where the piling begins on the outer breakwater. This design will:

  • Provide 60m of additional quay length capable of taking boats of up to 500 tonnes.
    • Provide 4000m2 of additional laydown
    • Ensure no reduction in the workable length of the Ice and Breakwater Quays.

In addition, we are considering deepening an area of the Outer Harbour. Current water depths in the outer harbour are -4mCD, however the existing infrastructure could facilitate water depths of -6m CD.  It would however require dredging, including blasting of rock and clearly that would have cost implications. It would also cause some disruption to the operation of the Harbour while the works were in progress.

If, having seen the proposals, you wish to make representations on the proposed development, please contact: Fiona Henderson, Affric Limited, Lochview Office, Loch Duntelchaig, Farr, IV2 6AW, consultation@affriclimited.co.uk by the 20th of November 2020.

As well as the proposals for this major development, we have also been working on some smaller proposals, including working with the new South Knoydart Community Council to apply for funding to install a shelter at the top of the new passenger access pontoon. Westwheels have also completed the installation of their electric charging point for their new electric van, which is within one of the Harbour car parks.

 Jacqueline McDonell