Court provisionally upholds warrant of prohibitory injunction over Comino ferry

Comino ferries

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Court has provisionally upheld a warrant of prohibitory injunction over a government concession regarding the ferrying of passengers from Malta to Comino. A company was granted exclusively to one company as part of a tender issued by Transport Malta.

A number of boat operators who operate non-scheduled charters and pre-booked trips around Malta and Comino had filed a request for the issuing of a warrant of prohibitory injunction over the Comino ferry service. The warrant has been issued pending the first hearing of the case.

The operators voiced their concerns over the use of berthing rights at the landing places in Cirkewwa and Marfa and in blue Lagoon and Santa Maria Bay, Comino. They asked the court to stop the Authority from executing any agreement pursuant to the Request for Proposals for “a Public Service Concession contract of the provision of passenger ferry services between Malta and Comino.”

The contract of service with the chosen operator did not allow other operators on the jetties, the operators argued.

Under the 15-year concession, the operator will have exclusive rights to ferry people from designated berthing facilities in Gozo, Comino and Ċirkewwa and make use of eco-friendly vessels.

The tender awarded to the company, gave “priority boarding rights” the operators highlighted, meaning that if they were not given the permission to dock they would have no option but to disembark their passengers at sea.

In their application, the operators argued that according to the European Commission regulations on the freedom to provide maritime transport services, a public service contract requires “overriding reasons in the public interest”. These must be proportional and based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria, which are completely absent from the agreement with the new operator.

They argued that these requisites and the original request for proposals are illegal, abusive, excessive, discriminatory and disproportional over their right to continue providing maritime transport service.

Last June, had revealed that the fate of a number of boat operators was uncertain.

Gozo Tourism Association described the concession as a monopoly and decried the discrimination against operators on Wednesday.