The Malta Independent 28 May 2023, Sunday
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Mgarr Terminal officially open

Malta Independent Friday, 22 February 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 10 years ago

It was subject to design change and took four long years to complete, but the Mgarr Ferry Terminal was officially inaugurated yesterday by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, saying that while there had been technical difficulties, the end result was definitely a leap in quality.

The day started early at Cirkewwa when the Prime Minister, accompanied by IT and Investment Minister Austin Gatt and Communications Minister Censu Galea boarded the Gozo ferry.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to visit the bridge as the ferry pulled into Mgarr. Dr Gonzi was relaxed and casual while on the bridge and expressed his amazement of such a machine. Speaking to a representative of this newspaper, Dr Gonzi said: “It amazes me how the captain can berth this thing, it’s a monster!” he said. When the ferry’s front loading ramp was being unfurled, he said: “Look, the nose has gone up ... think about it, it’s like parking a car with the bonnet up.”

Once the vessel docked, Dr Gonzi exited via the pedestrian exit, which leads straight into the arrivals lounge, where he was greeted by Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono. The government delegation toured the new terminal and also paid a visit to the control tower before officially inaugurating it.

First to speak was Mrs Debono who said: “This is a port that has been changed for the better. Is this Mgarr? There has been a radical change here,” she said.

She said that there were many difficulties in constructing the terminal, but that the workers had managed to keep the port running despite the construction work. “This is not the only project for Gozo, let us not forget the ships themselves and the new road leading to Victoria,” she said.

Mrs Debono said the new terminal will leave a good first impression on tourists. Communications Minister Censu Galea said: “The first quality jump in Mgarr was under the PN administration in the 1960s when the breakwater was built to allow for better access to and from Gozo. Nowadays, you can take a trip to Gozo any time and in almost any weather.”

Mr Galea said the plans for the terminal had been changed and for the better. “There are so many facilities here, yet they are not an eyesore, in fact you can barely see them unless you are in the terminal itself,” he said.

Dr Gatt also took the floor and decided to give some figures. “First I would like to say that in my time, the last trip from Gozo to Malta was at 5pm, and none used to run on a Saturday. If you got stuck, you got stuck,” he said.

He added that it was PN governments that had always invested in Gozo. “This holds true for five star hotels, accessibility, the breakwater, roads and many other projects,” he said.

Dr Gatt said that Mgarr Harbour handles more passengers annually than the Malta International Airport. “Last year, some 3.8 million passengers and one million cars travelled through here. And figures for the first six weeks of this year show that we are 11 per cent up on last year,” he said.

Dr Gatt said that Gozo Channel Co. had been transformed from a company that registered e2.3 million in losses to one that now registered a small profit. He also pointed out that the company absorbed the e700,000 recurring expenses annually.

Dr Gonzi said that the inauguration of the new terminal was another tangible step in working towards the PN’S 2015 vision. He said: “You can feel it, you can see it and you can touch it. I am pleased for both Malta and Gozo. It is a leap in quality and it is fitting.”

He said that paying customers deserved quality and this was a step in the right direction. “This facility cost e9.7 million and you can see the difference already, one practical example being that passengers have their own dedicated exit and shelter while waiting for the ferry to depart,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that the new terminal offers a 180-space underground car park, a taxi and coach park, accessibility for all and most importantly, added security. He said that the terminal can handle some 600 passengers and 200 cars at any given time.

Dr Gonzi said that the Cirkewwa project was underway, however, the EU funding earmarked for it still had to be cleared by the bureaucratic cogs of Brussels before it can be completed. “The breakwater has been worked on, as have the underwater foundations,” he said. The Prime Minister said that once the work is completed, both ports would be all weather departure points. Dr Gonzi said that improving accessibility to Gozo will truly allow the island to flourish, especially in the areas of incentive travel, sports, diving, conference travel and eco-tourism.

After the plaque was unveiled, Gozo bishop Mgr Mario Grech blessed the terminal and said a few words.

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