The ferry service between Malta and Gozo was suspended for a few hours this week after an anonymous bomb threat. Despite the act of cowardice that caused delays and long queues at both ends of the channel, I must thank the Armed Forces of Malta, the Police Force, the Civil Protection Department and Transport Malta for their immediate action to secure safety – our basic aim in providing the service to thousands of Gozitans and visitors. I must also express my appreciation to Gozo Channel employees who restored the situation back to normal and resumed service within a relatively short time.
Such threats – and any other attempt for that matter – will not discourage us from moving ahead with our plans to strengthen and enhance Gozo’s attractions for the enjoyment of our own families and an ever-growing number of visitors. As it happened, this week only two ferries were operating, as the MV Malita had been scheduled for a regular maintenance service.
It has to be noted that all three vessels have been in full operation since being built at Marsa Shipbuilding Yard in 2002. Despite the high rate of daily use, together with the expected wear and tear of over 16 years, there was never a plan by the previous administration to increase, replace or upgrade the fleet. This government, however, is pro-active and we are looking into alternative solutions. As I announced earlier this year, we have already commenced discussions about increasing the fleet. This is not simply a choice or discussion because such discussions have to be carried out within the ambit of EU rules and regulations.
This is indeed a sensitive moment for Gozo Channel, in view of the Public Service Obligation tender in process and the appeal procedure from one of the bidders. For the moment, I will only say this much, so to not jeopardise or in any manner impinge on or affect the whole process.
It is opportune to point out that Gozo Channel has to bid and be successful in the PSO outcome to continue delivering its service. Unless and until this happens, the plans for the strengthening of Gozo Channel are stalled. In full respect of the tendering process provisos, we have to wait for the outcome before any decision can be taken in the context of the contractual obligations that Gozo Channel has in respect of the services it has to provide in accordance with EC regulations. I strongly believe, however, that in full respect of established procedures, in the very near future we can move diligently ahead to effectively implement everything that needs to be done in this sec-