11 NGOs disappointed over the dropping of fast-ferry service proposal

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Eleven organisations are calling on the Government to reconsider its decision to ignore its electoral pledge to offer a fast-ferry service linking the Mġarr harbour to the Grand Harbour, in favour of a hop-on, hop-off ferry service.

In a press statement issued on Thursday, the NGOs said that the latter service will not cater for the needs of Gozitan and Maltese commuters crossing between Malta and Gozo every day, and fails to address, in a tangible and sustainable manner, the connectivity challenges faced by Gozitans.

The 11 NGOs are; Association for Gozitan Employees in Malta, Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Extinction Rebellion Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta and The Archaeological Society of Malta.

They stated that the fast-ferry had been promised for years, and it would have significantly eased the hardships faced by Gozitan workers, students and other commuters by providing a much shorter commute and reducing vehicular traffic between the two islands.

“By embracing a scheme that is merely a private sector business venture, instead of a fast-ferry service, the Government is betraying the 3,300 Gozitan employees who work in Malta, and who desperately need an efficient transport solution,” said the NGOs and further explained that it defies belief that the government remains obsessed with its pledge to deliver a car tunnel, which would take years and millions to complete, and which will not significantly shorten journey times, whilst dismissing other, more efficient, alternative solutions.

The tendering process for the provision of a fast-ferry service between Valletta and Mġarr was mired in controversy and has now been suspended following claims of foul play.

A third tender was issued earlier this summer for a hop-on, hop-off ferry service from at least five seaside locations, which will not be an adequate substitute for the fast-ferry service originally promised, said the NGOs in their joint press statement.

The fast-ferry service linking Mġarr to Valletta would provide a non-stop seamless connection for Gozitan commuters, who have to make the crossing daily. The new hop-on, hop-off service proposes to make various stops at different ports in Gozo and Malta.

According to the 11 NGOs, sources close to the maritime industry have claimed that it is clear that the latest tender document has been drafted with the sole intention of accommodating the needs of just one operator.

“One cannot ignore the similarity between the Government’s proposed scheme, and the hop-on, hop-off service that has just been launched. It seems to be a very strange coincidence indeed that a new catamaran service operated by Captain Morgan started operating just a day after it was announced that the fast-ferry tendering process was being suspended,” the NGOs noted.

In view of this, the NGOs demand full transparency from the Government, and they demand the publication of the studies that would justify its decision to shelve the fast-ferry plan and opt for the hop-on hop-off service instead.