The Malta Independent 26 September 2023, Tuesday
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TM’s no objection to 140m Freeport cranes despite admitting they will penetrate flight paths

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 8 December 2015, 10:14 Last update: about 9 years ago

Transport Malta has recommended the sanctioning of new cranes at the Freeport despite admitting the situation was “not desirable” and that the 140m structures will penetrate the airport’s flight path.

On 19 November, the MEPA board had suspended two applications by the Freeport regarding the repositioning of the new cranes because of a not so clear response by TM’s Civil Aviation Department. The issue revolves around a number of new cranes that the Freeport bought and installed in October, before a permit was issued. At 140 metres tall, the cranes are higher than the older ones by 30 metres – and are just 10 metres shorter than the Delimara chimney.

The letter from Transport Malta stated that “TM has reviewed tis proposal in conjunction with the stakeholders concerned. It has been established that these contraptions will penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m and although this situation is not desirable,  given the importance of this facility to the economy, on exceptional basis ad without prejudice to any future request, it is being considered as acceptable subject to the following mitigations:

a) Surveyed height and position shall be communicated to Transport Malta (Civil Aviation Directorate) upon installation of each crane.

b) Cranes shall be equipped with dual-unit, low intensity lighting (ICAO Annex 14 Type B) on the jibs, which are operational during night and low visibility conditions.

c) Cranes shall be equipped with obstacle lighting failure warning system which will instantaneously alert the operator (Malta Freeport) who in turn shall immediately notify MIA plc via email or any other expeditious means’.

MEPA Chairman Vince Cassar said he wanted a clear-cut response from TM while pointing out that the transport authority was brushing off its responsibility on matters related to aviation. CEO Johann Buttigieg said he had got in contact with the authority in a bid to seek clarification but no reply had been forthcoming.

Exactly two weeks later, on 3 December, Transport Malta again wrote to MEPA and said it had no objection to the project it had previously called undesirable. The short letter again lacked any form of explanation and simply said: “Having taken into account our letter of the 19th August and having ascertained the acquiescence by Freeport Terminals to implement the conditions stated therein, we find no objection to the project.”

AD Vice Chairman Carmel Cacopardo said yesterday that Transport Malta had shouldered part of the responsibility by stating that the Freeport would obey the conditions and install the necessary lights on the crane structures but the fact still remained that the situation was, in the words of TM itself “not desirable.”  Mr Cacopardo said that the fact that the Freeport said it would observe the conditions did not mean that the problem had been solved. “All the ifs and buts are still there,” he told The Malta Independent.

Independent MP Marlene Farrugia, who said she is speaking on behalf of her constituents, also expressed her surprise at the way TM was seemingly “disregarding the safety of residents, air passengers and Freeport workers” and recommended approval.

Describing the situation as “unacceptable,” Dr Farrugia said it was practically impossible for Transport Malta to have conducted any studies in a two-week period. “What studies has TM carried out to back its decision? Why have they described the situation as undesirable but still gave their go-ahead? What safeguards will be implemented to protect the passengers, employees and residents? Are Freeport workers aware of the dangers, and are they being remunerated accordingly? Has the OHSA been involved in this at all?”

Questions have been sent to MEPA and Transport Malta. 

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