Gozo Chan­nel

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

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-

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