Transport Malta ordered to cancel hop-on, hop-off ferry tender

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Transport Malta has been ordered to cancel the request for proposals (RFP) for a public service concession contract for the hop-on, hop-off sea ferry service in Malta and Gozo.

It has been ordered to do so by the Public Contracts Review Board based on the following illegalities:

  • Transport Malta formulated specifications and conditions without seriously considering the ‘Maritime Cabotage Regulations’, or without obtaining verification as to compliance thereto.
  • The technical specifications are too vague and subject to various interpretations.
  • Options allowed in the RFP document will create problematic issues during the evaluation process.
  • The award criteria adopted is the most suitable system for such an evaluation process, however, for the system to be effective, a ‘Level Playing Field’ has to be maintained and this can only be guaranteed by inviting prospective bidders to abide by definite technical specifications and conditions as strictly stipulated in the RFP and not otherwise.
  • Transport Malta should primarily obtain indications to ensure that, the conditions in the RFP will not be in breach of any of the requirements contained in the ‘Maritime Cabotage Regulations’ and the ‘Concession Contracts Regulations’
  • The nature of the operational activity of the proposed service merits the introduction of an exclusivity clause.
  • With regard to the concession period, this Board recommends that, such a period should only be established after ensuring the above.
  • The concession period should be less than 12 years, and if more, should get approval from the relevant EU authority.
  • Such facilities being constructed at the expense of the Authority should not be considered a form of State Aid. It should be considered a necessary long term investment in the interest of the public in general and as an alternative means of transport.

Transport Malta has been ordered to cancel the current RFP, and issue a new one taking into account all the considerations deliberated on by the Board, on the formulation of technical specifications and conditions in the RFP.

The Board also directed the Authority to seek professional advice from competent
Authorities, regarding the period of the concession and recommended that enquiries be made with the relevant EU Authorities.

This comes after Virtu Ferries Limited filed an appeal before the Public Contracts Review Board, suspending the tender worth €115.5m. Virtu Ferries, which runs the catamaran service to Sicily, had said the call had a great number of serious illegalities.

This was the government’s third attempt at awarding a contract for a new ferry service between Malta and Gozo. The other two tenders were cancelled by the Transport Ministry following legal procedures. The other tenders concerned a fast ferry service, while this one outlines a hop-on, hop-off service serving Marsaxlokk, Ta’ Xbiex, St Paul’s Bay, Valletta, St Julian’s and Gozo.

Virtu Ferries had challenged Gozo Channel’s decision after its offer was rejected
Gozo-Malta fast ferry tender cancelled by the review board

Transport Malta, in a statement, has outlined that it’s committed to work on the recommendations of the board.

Meanwhile, the Opposition’s speaker on matters concerning Gozo, Chris Said, outlined that the fast ferry service has been promised for 8 years. He also attached a photo of the Malta-Gozo fast ferry in the 90s.

IT-TGHAFFIGA TAL-FAST FERRY TKOMPLI – INKOMPETENZA GRASSA.Illum Transport Malta tilfet l-appell li sar kontra taghha…

Posted by Chris Said on Tuesday, October 27, 2020