6th – 18th February (24 arrivals)

Whitefish totalled 4000 boxes from 6 Anglo Spanish liners and 1 gill-netter. Fishing has been very good of late with plenty fish on the grounds; already skippers are concerned that quotas will be quickly exhausted if catch rates continue as they are. Market prices for all species are unusually low due to the continuing financial troubles in Europe.

The shellfish sector worked away in fantastic spring weather with all sectors reporting good returns but poor prices. The Minch is once again busy with displaced east coast prawn trawlers as was the case in 2012. The North Sea is apparently barren of prawns hence the shift to western waters; won’t be long before the Minch is equally desert like I suspect.

Work at Morefield Industrial Estate is on schedule with the cladding of the first three units almost complete. Work will then move onto construction of the next three units followed by the formation of the access road and pavements.

We expect that by the time you’re reading this, repairs on the ferry Linkspan will have been completed. The beams underneath have all been welded and the supporting steelwork has been sandblasted and repainted.

The public meeting on 25th February hosted by Caledonian Maritime Assets about the new Ullapool-Stornoway ferry was reasonably well attended. A number of presentations outlined the new ship’s design, proposed extension of the ferry pier, new passenger gangway system and traffic management system. A Q&A session followed which, given that the project is in the earliest stage, could only deal with a certain level of detail. This is the first of several public meetings that will be held between now and the arrival of the new vessel in July 2014. The new vessel name will be decided by public vote from a short list that can be found on the CMAL website.  Past tradition of alternating between Island/Mainland has gone by the board with the current transport minister indicating a preference for a connection with the Arctic conveys hence the Loch Ewe and Cape Wrath options. I was chatting with a frequent Minch crosser this week who, disenchanted with the single vessel option, muttered that Marag Dhubh would be a more appropriate name.

The ground investigation contract for the ferry pier extension has been awarded to the Northern Irish firm of Causeway Geotech Ltd. The jack-up barge will be trucked in early next week, assembled on the pier and ready to commence drilling the first of 4 boreholes by Thursday 14th. Weather permitting; the works should be completed in 2-3 weeks.

Like everyone else who’s involved in welcoming visitors to the area, we’re starting to gear up for the tourist season which seems to be especially early this year. 2013 is the busiest yet for cruise visits with 14 ships in the diary. A reminder that the Tall Ships Wylde Swan and Statsraad Lehmkuhl will make return visits later in the summer – dates will be confirmed in due course.