I have a particular interest in those small harbours, often the result of Victorian private or municipal enterprise, that once provided cargoes for thousands of coasting vessels and underpinned the livelihoods of tens of thousands in port industries.
So many such small harbours went out of business when ships grew too big or the industries closed down. Some have been infilled and lost, others have become ‘harbour frontage’ residential hot properties and so-called marinas. But I am heartened that one at least, Kirkcaldy in Fife, reopened after 20 years and with a great flourish. Now Carrs Mill Group is welcoming over 100,000 tons of wheat annually to their Kirkcaldy Hutchison Mill. Julius Deane for Carrs proudly points out they’ve welcomed 150 vessels with over 260,000 metric tonnes of wheat since they renewed the Mill and reopened Kirkcaldy port four years ago in August 2011.
Seeing the image of the first vessel into the reopened dock Danica Hav, 1,536,’84, shows the port has not avoided harbour-side residential schemes - but the residents may even benefi t from such an regenerated scene! Shetland Trader 1,512,’92 is another arrivee. Kirkcaldy receives English wheat from the South Coast as well as cargoes from German Baltic and French Biscay ports and deep sea by transhipment usually ex Tilbury.
Previously, the wheat arrived at the mill by truck from other ports, including Perth, and the reopening is estimated to be removing 240,000 HGV miles a year from Scotland’s roads. Julius of Carrs explains there are other advantages. For example, in snow conditions trucks may be immobile or in great difficulty, but ships will usually get through. Shiploads also provide greater consistency in wheat quality at the mill when many trucks means greater effort is needed to harmonise the flour mix.
Carrs received government funding by a freight facilities grant (FFG) without which the expensive investment in the mill and the port would not have been viable. The work was undertaken in association with the port’s owners, Forth Ports. Regrettably, these grants designed to boost environmentally friendly water transport seem to have now been greatly reduced or withdrawn altogether.
Carrs also operate mills at Maldon, Essex, which does not receive cargoes by water, and Silloth in Cumbria. Here high quality milling continues having commenced in 1887 when the dock was newly built. Silloth is receiving rather less transhipped wheat from Liverpool’s Seaforth terminal than previously and is also mainly now receiving from English South Coast, French and Baltic sources.
But there are rare direct shipments of Canadian wheat. See the Inverness registered Scot Pioneer 3,370,’06 arriving from Port Cartier, Quebec in ’09. I can recall Manchester Liners’ small ‘Lakers’ bringing to Silloth similar freights transatlantic. Scot Pioneer is usually on Scot-Line service linking Inverness, Rochester and Beverwijk to Varberg and other Baltic ports.