[WATCH] Updated | Fourth Gozo ferry expected to start operating in matter of days

The Gozo Channel's newest ferry will allow the service between Malta and Gozo to be more frequent, the Gozo Ministry said

The Gozo Channel has added a fourth ferry to its fleet. The new ship is expected to start operating in the coming days, the Gozo Ministry said on Friday.

Gozo minster Justyne Caruana visited the new ship on Friday, explaining that the need for the fourth ferry had become apparent, with passenger numbers increasing on a weekly basis.

She said that roughly a year a go, the government had started the process of adding a new ferry, with the Gozo Channel contacting several international agencies in order to find the vessel that was best suited to its needs as well as the Mgarr and Cirkewwa harbours.

The manner in which the two ports were built had presented considerable challenges, Caruana said.

The fourth ship, she said, would increase the Gozo Channel’s efficiency and would make life easier for those needing to cross the channel. The service will now be operated using three ships, with the fourth being dedicated to commercial vehicles, Caruana said.

The minister said that the new ferry had been been leased for a definite period of time until an international tender is issued for the company to lease a ship for a longer period of time.

"Adding another ferry will give the company the ability to plan better and to carry out maintenance without inconveniencing those who use the service every day,” Caruana said.

She said that with the addition with the fourth ship, the introduction of a fast-ferry service, once court proceedings are concluded, as well as the “ambitious” Gozo tunnel project, the “government was showing that it has a vision for Gozo that is being implemented through its long-term strategy”.   

Ferry not even good enough for a third world country - Chris Said

Reacting to the government's announcement, Nationalist MP Chris Said has the Gozo Channel urgently needed a fourth ship, meaning that the ship was a welcome addition. 

However, Said said it appeared that the newly added ship was a 32-year-old vessel and was therefore 11 years older than the Gozo Channel's oldest one. 

"If we are saying that the current ships need to be replaced within ten years (when they turn 30), then why has a ship been brought in that is older than 30 years?" Said asked in a Facebook post. "Is this the best they offer Gozitans? A PN government built three brand new ships when they were needed. Why wasn't a new ship brought in? Are Gozo and the Gozitan people only worthy of second hand and expired items?"

Furthermore, he said that it appeared as though the ship had been wet leased, meaning that it has been brought in with its own crew.

"This is an insult to Gozitan workers who have experience with the Gozo channel and these types of ships. This type of lease will negatively impact the current workers, especially those that were employed before the election with the promise that they would eventually be given an indefinite contract," he continued.

Finally, Said noted that the ship was likely to contribute to more emissions given its age.

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