Comino ferry operators fuming as Transport Malta grants single company exclusive permit

Operators of ferry services between Malta and Comino exasperated as one company granted exclusive rights to transport passengers 

Transport Malta has awarded a single company a permit to operate a ferry service from the North of Malta to Comino
Transport Malta has awarded a single company a permit to operate a ferry service from the North of Malta to Comino

The operators of various passenger ferry services between Malta and Comino have been left fuming after a single company was awarded an exclusive permit to offer a sea transportation service between the two islands.

Operators were informed in a letter from Transport Malta dated 13 January that, following a request for proposals issued last year and the completion of a competitive process, a suitable operator for the provision of a Malta-Comino ferry service had been identified.

The authority said it was entering into an agreement with the successful bidder for a period of 15 years, starting on 25 January.

During this period, the operator will be granted exclusive rights to provide passenger ferry services by sea on the route between the coastal area covering Cirkewwa South Quary to Marfa in Malta, and the berthing facilities and landing places in Blue Lagoon and Santa Marija Bay in Comino, at all times.

Transport Malta informed all other current operators that they would not be authorised to provide the same passenger ferry services on the route, effectively limiting the provision of the service from the North of Malta to Comino to only one operator.

The news has frustrated the other ferry operators - numbering around 40 to 50 - who feel that, after many years of providing services and investing in their operations, they are being unfairly elbowed out of the sector.

In one Facebook post by Joyride Watersports Gozo, which was signed by over a dozen ferry operators, the companies are calling on new prime minister Robert Abela to intervene to help the small businesses.

“It is very unfair that this is going to happen in Malta in 2020,” the post reads, “[...] some operators have been operating for over 40 years, and now one person is going to be the only one that can [operate] from the North of Malta!”

“We are going to be stopped from dropping off and picking up clients from bays that we have done so for years! We need to take a stand!”

The operators said that one “big fish” company would be taking over from all the smaller ferry services, highlighting that behind every individual operator was a family which was being supported by the business.

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