Ragusa Xpress in test run before new daily Malta-Sicily ferry service can start

New Maltese-owned catamaran company will soon offer daily trips between Valletta and Marina di Ragusa in Sicily as the vessel undergoes final testing on Wednesday

The Ragusa Xpress will run daily trips between Valletta and Marina di Ragusa in Sicily
The Ragusa Xpress will run daily trips between Valletta and Marina di Ragusa in Sicily

The catamaran that will be linking Malta to Marina di Ragusa in Sicily left Valletta on Wednesday morning to run some final tests in Ragusa before entering full service.

The Ragusa Xpress will be running tests under the supervision of the port authorities in Ragusa to establish how the catamaran will approach the harbour and the berthing procedures.

The catamaran service to Marina di Ragusa is to be launched soon, after a Maltese group of investors, led by Paul Gauci of PAMA and PAVI fame, took over ownership of the marina and the port area.

The tests on Wednesday are crucial before the owners are given the green light to start daily catamaran service between Marina di Ragusa and Valletta.

Online news portal Ragusa Oggi quoted port authority sources saying that the tests are not expected to last long, but might be hampered by the weather, with strong wind and isolated showers expected throughout Wednesday.

The tourist port in Marina di Ragusa was developed after Tecnis, a consortium of Italian companies, was awarded a 60-year lease in 2005. The developed received €30 million in EU funds.

The company went into liquidation in 2016, with a number of its top officials under investigation for fraud and misappropriation.

Business Today revealed in October 2022 that the Maltese investment group, principally Gauci, assumed the debt still owed to Italian banks by Tecnis, taking over the title to the lease of the port in Marina di Ragusa, following judicial approval.

Besides launching a daily catamaran link to Malta, Gauci seems intent on developing extensive retail and residential units around the marina, as well as refurbishing the existing ship repairing facilities.

The Ragusa Xpress can carry up to 400 passengers and 18 vehicles
The Ragusa Xpress can carry up to 400 passengers and 18 vehicles

Establishing a catamaran link between Malta and Marina di Ragusa gained great impetus following news in October 2023 that Ponte Ferries had suspended its catamaran service between Valletta and Pozzallo, a year after launching the route to rival the long-established Virtu’ Ferries.

The marina in Marina di Ragusa is one of the best equipped in Sicily, with 700 berths for yachts of up to 50 metres.

The medium-sized catamaran that will be used on the Marina di Ragusa/Valletta link was built in 2001 and originally christened HSC San Giorgio. The vessel is 50 metres long with a 12 metre beam.

It has now been renamed Ragusa Xpress and has undergone an extensive refurbishment in the past few months.

It can carry up to 400 passengers and 18 vehicles.

Welcome investment

The Maltese investment in Marina di Ragusa has been welcomed in Ragusa, with locals hoping the sale would lead to an increase in tourist numbers.

Ragusa mayor Peppe Cassì previously told Business Today said the port in Marina di Ragusa was crucial for the region and was a point of reference for many boats visiting southern Sicily.

He welcomed the Maltese investment and said this could only help to further cement the strong ties the southern region of Sicily and Malta already enjoy.

“Malta and Sicily are already linked by daily catamaran trips to Pozzallo,” Cassì said. “I only hope that the Maltese investors involve the local region in the regeneration of the harbour.”

He confirmed that plans were in place for parts of the harbour to be dredged to allow for the berthing of larger vessels.