The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

New fast ferry service to Sicily to be launched by Ponte Ferries

Thursday, 17 December 2020, 13:50 Last update: about 2 months ago

Ponte Ferries has announced that it will operate a new, fast ferry catamaran service to Sicily from summer 2021 with a 96-metre passenger, vehicle and cargo-carrying, high-speed craft.

The ferry, which will shuttle every day between Malta and the Port of Augusta — located less than 30 minutes away from Catania — with the company saying in a statement that the service promises to bring the much-needed choice and competition with the entry of a second operator in the market.

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The HSC Artemis will sail into the Grand Harbour in the coming days, where it will undergo internal upgrades to equip the vessel with the latest technologies and amenities, providing passengers with a number of firsts for this type of travel. She will also feature a club class lounge, among many other services.

The high-speed craft – which is fully classed and compliant with all international safety and navigation regulations, and registered under the Maltese flag – will be ready for the new ferry service operation between Malta and Sicily by summer 2021.

The vessel was operating in the Canary Islands and has recently been overhauled and refitted by Fred Olsen, a leading ferry operator in Spain that specialises in inter-island routes aboard high-speed vessels.

A Ponte Ferries spokesperson said: “We are thrilled and determined to offer a choice for hauliers and visitors to Sicily. We have researched the market for a few years now, and know that this is what people want.”

“We believe there is space for another player in this market segment and we look forward to launch our new, customer-focused approach, matched with a user-friendly ticketing system in the coming months,” the spokesperson said, adding that Ponte Ferries has been in talks with the Valletta Cruise Port and Port of Augusta authorities for at least two years.

Ponte Ferries is a joint venture between Magro Brothers Investments Ltd and Merill Invest Ltd, owned by entrepreneurs brothers Michael and Julian Zammit Tabona, and businessmen Mario Muscat and Fabio Muscat.

Magro Brothers, which had been previously involved in the maritime industry, is now looking to re-enter the market through this investment, while the Zammit Tabona brothers have for more than four decades’ experience; having been active in this field through their holdings in Captain Morgan Cruises; iSeeMalta’s hop-on, hop-off concept; and the ferry transport service connecting Sliema, Valletta and The Three Cities.

The high-speed craft will be able to shuttle more than 717 passengers between Malta and Augusta and has the flexibility to carry 245 cars, or 15 road freight trailers plus 180 cars.

The trip between Malta and Augusta will offer clients a new opportunity to explore areas closer to Catania, Taormina and Syracuse with a reduction in transit time due to the close proximity of the autostrada which would give clients quicker and easier access to these areas.

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