Tourist ferries irked after left out of migrant chartering

Three tourist boat operators complain of having been left out of process which saw the government charter Captain Morgan to host migrants

Two Captain Morgan vessels have been chartered to host rescued migrants, but another three companies are complaining of having been left out of the government's selection process
Two Captain Morgan vessels have been chartered to host rescued migrants, but another three companies are complaining of having been left out of the government's selection process

A number of tourist boat operators have complained that they were at no point ask to give quotations for services to host migrants.

The government to date has chartered two tourist vessel operated by Captain Morgan to keep migrants rescued at sea on.

Last week, Captain Morgan's Europa II was chartered to host 58 migrants and ordered to anchor outside Malta's territorial water, while the company's Bahari vessel was on Thursday chartered to house another 123 migrants rescue by the army.

Three other companies which operate vessels which are the equivalent of, or better than, those being chartered by the government have however complained to sister newspaper Illum that they were never asked to participate in the selection process which saw Captain Morgan being chosen to host migrants.

Sources close to the government justified this by saying that Captain Morgan had on the fist occasion been chosen due to the urgency of the situation involving the rescue migrants, the newspaper reported on Sunday.

On the second occasion this week, the government insisted that it obtained two quotations for the service: one from Captain Morgan and another from Supreme Cruises.

Captain Morgan, which is owned by the Zammit Tabona family, was again selected because it offered to carry out the job at the cheapest rate - €3,000 a day for as long as required.

Supreme Cruises, owned by Zaren Abela first asked for €10,000 and then €7,000.

Illum said that the other companies - Sea Adventure, Luzzu Cruises and Hornblower - were not contacted about submitting quotes for the required service, however.

Jonathan Grech, Sea Adventure's owner, said that, despite the ship he operates being the best in terms of its certifications, he was never approached by the government.

"We weren't asked to give quotations... I don't know why. They only work with Captain Morgan!" he lamented.

Hornblower's owner Kevin Grech mirrored these sentiments, saying he operates boats similar to those being used by Captain Morgan, and others which are even better.

"I didn't expect anything expect to be asked to submit a quotation, even if we didn't win the contract," he told the newspaper.

A spokesperson from Luzzu Cruises confirmed that he had also had received no contact from the government.

It has therefore taken the unusual move of chartering the commercial vessels to host the rescued migrants at sea.

The government unusual move to charter commercial vessels to host persons rescued at sea comes after Malta closed its ports to migrants due to strained resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to limited capacity on the island.

The government is insisting that an EU relocation agreement is reached before it allows any more migrants to enter into Maltese ports.

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