The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Transport Malta allowing Gozo fast ferry bidders to develop their own routes

Thursday, 17 September 2020, 15:56 Last update: about 2 months ago

Transport Malta (TM) is allowing Fast Ferry bidders to develop their own routes across the destinations that the project entails. 

Today, the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects and the Ministry for Gozo released a statement in which they acknowledged the responses submitted by TM before the Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB), with regard to the call for ferry services (that can support fast operating speeds) issued by the same authority during the month of August.

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“As communicated several times, following research by respected experts, TM made the decision to issue a call where bidders are invited to submit and develop a schedule with times and routes that must include 6 mandatory places,” the statement read.

The ultimate goal is for Malta to have a quick and clean ferry service connecting these places, which include Gozo, Marsaxlokk, Ta’ Xbiex, St Paul’s Bay, St Julian’s, and Valletta.

This was the third time that the government tried to award the contract. The previous two calls were cancelled after lengthy court proceedings, with the latest cancellation happening in September last year, after an Appeals Court ruled in favour of Virtu Ferries – the losing bidder in the tender – who said that the deal was “vitiated”.

However, last Monday, TM said that a Request for Proposals (RfP) for the provision of a fast ferry service between Malta and Gozo respects all European laws.

“Not only has the government not discarded the Fast Ferry pledge as proposed; to the contrary, a call is currently open for more extensive service,” said the Transport Ministry and the Gozo Ministry in their statement today.

To solidify this point, they explained that TM is allowing bidders the freedom to develop these routes themselves, and these can therefore be direct between these different destinations or else including stops. The schedules and routes can also include both formats; direct and indirect.

“Now that the authority has submitted the cost-benefit analysis carried out by the Economists E-Cubed Consultants, which researches and considers the viability of such a service, it is clear that Government was wise to decide to first give the market an opportunity for operators to submit their bids via commercial process instead of integrating it with the public service obligations, which would have only meant that the government would have had to fork out the subsidies from the public’s funds.”

The same study by E-Cubed Consultants shows that the number of people willing to use the ferry as a clean and alternative mode of transport to the private vehicle augurs well for the market to put forward bids in the interest of the Maltese and Gozitan public.

“The government also notes with satisfaction that through the submissions made by TM, the authority is insisting that the call should continue and not be stopped so that the people can begin benefitting from these new connections,” they concluded.

The fast-ferry was first mooted in 2016 by then-Gozo Minister Anton Refalo, who had declared that a PSO would be issued for a fast ferry service between Gozo and the centre of Malta.

The provision of a fast-ferry service between Malta and Gozo was in both the Labour Party’s 2013 and 2017 electoral manifestos.

However, since, travel between Malta and Gozo has only been reinforced by a fourth conventional ferry.

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