The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Court provisionally upholds Warrant of Prohibitory injunction over Comino ferry tender

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 18:25 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Court has provisionally upheld a warrant of prohibitory Injunction over a government decision regarding the ferrying of passengers from Malta to Comino.

Recently, news broke that the service from Marfa and Cirkewwa to Comino had been granted exclusively to one company as part of a tender issued by Transport Malta. Other operators, who would be forced out of using the route, had taken to social media to express their disgust at the news after they received a port notice about the tender, which is meant to commence as of Friday.

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A number of boat operators who operate non-scheduled charters and pre-booked trips around Malta and Comino had filed a request for the issuing of a Warrant of prohibitory injunction over the Comino ferry service.  The temporary Warrant of Injunction has been issued pending the first hearing in the case on Friday.

They asked the court to stop the Transport Authority from enforcing Port Notice 1/2020, which among other things allocated to the chosen operator priority berthing rights at the landing places in Cirkewwa and Marfa and in blue Lagoon and Santa Maria Bay, Comino. They also asked the Court to stop the Authority from executing any agreement persuant to the Request for Proposals for "a Public Service Concession contract for the provision of passenger ferry services between Malta and Comino."

The operators who filed the court case said that they have been operating for tens of years and are presently authorised to offer passenger carrying services between these localities through the terms of their Commercial Vessel Certification licences. The operators who filed the court case said that in order to offer their service on a commercial basis, they use the quays present in Cirkewwa and Marfa as well as those in the Blue Lagoon and Santa Maria Bay in Comino.

They argued that through the Port Notice that had been issued, Transport Malta does not only aim to give the exclusive right for the scheduled ferry service between Malta and Comino, but also give the chosen operator 'priority use' of all the quays in Cirkewwa, Marfa and Comino. As a result of this, they argue, they would no longer have any certainty that they would be able to use these quays that are an essential requisite for them to operate.

The operators argued that through the Port Notice there is no obligation on the authority nor on the third party chosen operator obliging them to allow the other operators make use of the quays. "Contrary to this, the same Port Notice and the Request for Proposals show that it is nearly giving exclusive rights to the chosen operator to use the quays without safeguarding the interests or rights of the other operators to make use of them."

The operators who filed the case argued that currently there are around 50 operators who use these quays. They argued that their rights are being breached, and that the Contract for the single operator was not necessary and is not proportionate as it would effectively stop other operators from offering the same service.

Previously, Comino Ferries Coop - who won the Request for Proposals - which is made up of four ferry operators, said that it was the only operator to bid for a tender issued by Transport Malta last July for a single entity to run the Comino ferry service from Marfa and Cirkewwa.


 

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