The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Exhaust emission: Ferry company says issue was ‘identified and rectified without delay’

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 15 June 2021, 14:04 Last update: about 3 months ago

Fumes and silt emitted from a Malta-Sicily fast ferry were caused during a testing procedure and the problem was immediately identified and rectified, the company operating the vessel has told The Malta Independent.

Photos shared on social media showed black smoke belching out of the HSC Artemis, owned by Ponte Ferries, which will soon become the second company operating a ferry service between Malta and Sicily. Footage also showed what seemed to be a black silt slick in the vicinity of the vessel which at the time was berthed at the Grand Harbour.

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“The fumes and silt were caused during a testing procedure by the vessel’s engineers, and the matter was immediately identified and rectified without delay. We apologise for any inconvenience that may have been caused,” a company spokesperson said.

The company said the vessel is currently undergoing a complete overhaul and refit in the run-up to the start of operations to Sicily in the coming weeks.

Ponte Ferries said it “strives to carry out its operations at the highest levels with full respect for the environment, passenger safety and comfort.”

The HSC Artemis, which until recently operated in the Canary Islands, has been registered under the Maltese flag. Ponte Ferries said recently that the vessel had been upgraded and equipped with all the latest technologies and amenities. It said the high-speed craft is fully classed and compliant with all international safety and navigation regulations.

It was recently refitted by Fred Olsen, a leading ferry operator in Spain that specialises in inter-island routes aboard high-speed vessels.

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.

Meanwhile, this newsroom also received photos showing exhaust fumes being emitted from vessels that are being used by two companies providing the new Gozo fast ferry service.

One of the vessels belongs to Gozo Fast Ferry, which is backed by Bianchi Group and Merrill Investments, while the other belongs to Virtu Ferries.

A spokesperson for Gozo Fast Ferry said the photo in question “was taken on the first day of operation, and it has not happened since.”

“The boats being used by Gozo Fast Ferry were built in 2018 and are equipped with the latest advanced technology, not just with more efficient and environment-friendly engines, but also in terms of safety standards and features,” the company said.

Also contacted by this newsroom, Virtu Ferries said, “All diesel engines emit limited exhaust fumes, as do our vessels. Black smoke is more often than not emitted as a result of a forced manoeuvre requiring sudden increased power but is not a regular occurrence.”

The company said all of its vessel’s engines are Class approved and certified conforming to International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standards.

Pointing out that that such emissions are a common occurrence, even for its competitors, the company assured that its vessels are maintained to the highest standards.


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