Council set to back berthing of LNG vessel in Marsaxlokk bay

Mayor dispels claims his softening of council position against LNG vessel is down to his imminent promotion to senior manager at Transport Malta

The Marsaxlokk Local Council will take a final stand on the LNG-storage vessel which government plans to berth inside the fishing village’s picturesque bay on Thursday.

Marsaxlokk mayor Edric Micallef said that the decision will be taken on Thursday, ahead of the MEPA meeting on Monday 24 March, which will decide on the location of the gas storage vessel.

In recent weeks, the Opposition has relentlessly called on government to locate the floating gas storage facility outside the bay.

A social impact study by sociologist Marvin Formosa showed that residents in the nearby towns of Marsaxlokk and Birzebbugia welcomed the prospect of better air quality from the new gas plant at Delimara, but a vast majority want to see the gas storage infrastructure located outside the Marsaxlokk harbour.

Echoing the residents’ sentiments, in an interview with MaltaToday just over a month ago, Micallef had insisted that the vessel should be anchored outside the harbour.

In February he said that the Marsaxlokk council wanted the offshore storage facility to be temporary.

“In all our reports we insisted on the tanker being located further offshore. We still want it outside the port,” Micallef had said.

However, speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Micallef said that although he counts himself among the 91% of residents who expressed a wish to see the vessel berthed outside the bay, “switching to gas takes priority”.

He said that “in the hierarchy of priorities,” it was more important to have energy generated by gas, and since the government has given assurances that anchoring the storage vessel inside the bay does not pose a security risk, “this is the best solution to convert to gas”.

Yet, Micallef reiterated that in the long-term, gas should be supplied by a pipeline which supplies the country with natural gas from an external source.

Welcoming the government’s recent focus on the pipeline, the mayor said that he would be making a similar pitch in Thursday’s council meeting.

In the latest plans, the vessel will be located further ashore to a jetty and connected with a pipeline to the regasification plant, but still located in the Marsaxlokk bay.

Transport Malta post

Sources told MaltaToday that Micallef’s subtle change in position was down to his imminent promotion to Senior Manager (Operations) in the Roads Directorate at Transport Malta.

However, the mayor dispelled these claims, pointing out that he was entitled to apply for the post.

Moreover, Micallef – who holds a Master’s degree with a specialisation in roads construction engineering – said that after joining Transport Malta in 2000, he pointed out that he was never promoted to a senior management post despite the fact that three of his colleagues – who have the same qualifications and joined the authority together with Micallef 14 years ago – were promoted.

Transport Malta chief James Piscopo told MaltaToday that the authority is in the process of appointing four new senior managers, two in the Roads and Infrastructure Directorate and two in the Land Transport Directorate (Licensing).

“These appointments will strengthen the organisation structure in line with its mission to be closer to the people. It is also envisaged that these new posts will also allow the senior management team to focus more on initiatives leading to better streamlining of processes, cutting down on unnecessary bureaucracy and significantly improving service delivery,” Piscopo said.

Sources told MaltaToday that a number of employees at TM were shocked by the inclusion of a 15-year experience requirement in two of the vacancies, which they deemed as a measure to exclude possible candidates.

Moreover, it is thought that a number of these posts, which will take up the total number of senior managers at TM to 19, will be filled by persons close to Labour MPs.

However, Piscopo said that the requirements for the posts were “designed to strengthen and enrich the senior management team both with academic and technical competence as well as experience and deep knowledge of internal processes and systems”.

Piscopo also told MaltaToday that TM is planning to recruit a Senior Manager Human Resources to fill in the post, which is currently vacant.

He said that all appointments will be made as soon as the selection process is finalised.

Reorganisation process

MaltaToday is informed that the authority is braced for further organisational shake-ups, especially following the condition the TM found itself in after the 2013 general election.

In the run up to last year’s election, all senior managers had their contracts renewed by three years, despite the fact that they were not due to expire.

In December 2012, contracts of senior managers and chief officers, were extended over and above the remaining period on their contracts despite this not being normal practice.

Senior managers are normally judged on performance, and contract extensions are given on a case-by-case basis.

MaltaToday understands that one of the persons who had their contract extended in 2012 was the former chairman’s secretary, who was elevated to the senior management rank.