The Malta Independent 18 September 2021, Saturday

Effect of fast ferry service on Gozo Channel ‘significant’ – chairperson

Shona Berger Sunday, 25 July 2021, 07:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

The fast ferry service which operates between Valletta’s Grand Harbour and the Mġarr Port in Gozo has had a “significant” impact on the Gozo Channel service since it started operating, Gozo Channel Chairperson Joe Cordina told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The two fast ferry services, which provide a 45-minute travel time between the two islands, were inaugurated around two months ago by Prime Minister Robert Abela.

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Since then, the fast ferry service has seen a positive response from the public as Infrastructure and Transport Minister Ian Borg had announced that more than 42,000 passengers made use of the service between Malta and Gozo in the first month of operation.

Although the ferries do not cater for cars, motorbikes or scooters, the service still covered a total of 1,086 trips in the first month.

Consequently, The Malta Independent on Sunday reached out to the respective authorities to find out whether Gozo Channel saw a decrease in revenue and in passengers since the fast ferry service started operating. By the time of going to print, the company had not answered questions sent by email.

This newsroom, however, managed to contact company chairperson Joe Cordina who, although could not provide any figures said that the introduction of the fast ferry service has presented a significant impact on Gozo Channel. “At the end of the day, every cent counts,” Cordina said.

Asked whether the company plans to keep the fourth ferry – the MV Nikolaus – in service, Cordina hinted that this would be the case.

“The plans on the matter will remain the same. The fourth ferry is the one that supports the company when it comes to catering for cars, motorbikes, scooters or any other motor vehicles. It remains an important ferry as the amount of cars that board remained the same,” Cordina said.

The MV Nikolaus was leased by Gozo Channel in 2019 amid an increase in passenger and car crossings as well as repeated complaints about long queues to board. Recent discussions in parliament have brought to light the question as to whether the contract of the fourth ferry will be extended or not.

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), during 2020, vehicle movements between the islands decreased by 230,771 (12.9%) over the previous year, while the number of passengers went down by 2,143,799 (36.2%). The total number of passengers that made use of the Gozo Channel in 2020 stood at 3,773,981.

Figures also show that in 2018 and 2019, a total of 5,758,318 and 5,917,780 passengers travelled between Malta and Gozo, respectively.

When looking at the number of passengers in June 2018-2021, the NSO showed that 512,936 (2018), 534,433 (2019), 318,822 (2020) and 383,386 (2021) passengers travelled between Malta and Gozo.

Taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions which affected operations and tourism in Gozo, the registered figures show that Gozo Channel experienced a decrease of over 200,000 passengers in 2020 and 2021, when compared to 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Gozo Channel registered a pre-tax profit of €839,259, whilst in 2017, the company registered a pre-tax loss of €940,173. In addition, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company embarked on a number of cost saving measures to compensate for the decrease in revenue. Since the easing of restrictions, Gozo Channel’s turnover gradually increased.

 

 

 

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