Comino ferry operator granted exclusive permit was sole bidder for service

Joint venture which was granted exclusive permit to operate Malta-Comino ferry from certain routes was the sole bidder in competitive process

Comino Ferries Co-op was the sole bidder in a call for proposals for a single entity to run a ferry service from Marfa and Cirkewwa
Comino Ferries Co-op was the sole bidder in a call for proposals for a single entity to run a ferry service from Marfa and Cirkewwa

An operator which was granted an exclusive permit to provide scheduled sea transport services between Malta and Comino from areas in the North of Malta, was the only bidder in the competitive tender process, it has emerged.

Last week, operators of ferry services between Malta and Comino were left fuming after having been informed in a letter from Transport Malta that, following a competitive process, a single operator would be granted exclusive rights to transport passenger across the two islands from certain routes.

The operator, Comino Ferries Coop - a joint venture made up of four operators - will, from 25 January, have exclusive rights for 15 years to provide scheduled passenger ferry services by sea on the route between the coastal area covering Cirkewwa South Quay to Marfa and the berthing facilities and landing places in Blue Lagoon and Santa Marija Bay in Comino.

The other operators took umbrage at this, with one group of ferry companies lamenting on Facebook that it was “very unfair” that they would no longer be allowed to do business from the North of Malta.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, however, Comino Ferries Coop said it wanted to clarify that it had in fact been the sole operator to bid for the tender, issued by Transport Malta last July, for a single entity to run the ferry service from Marfa and Cirkewwa.

It said that the tender had set out a number of conditions, including the use of new eco-vessels, a fixed schedule, increased frequency, extending the summer timetable from 6pm to 8pm and broadening the nature of the service to operate to Santa Maria Bay in addition to the Blue Lagoon.

“The provision of ferry services to Comino has been unregulated for decades – which has given rise to haphazard, unreliable and erratic operations – and all other operators had been offered the opportunity to submit a bid when the tender was issued. None chose to do so,” Comino Ferries Coop highlighted.

“Since it satisfied compliance requirements, Comino Ferries Coop was duly selected by Transport Malta as the sole operator,” it said, “Contrary to claims, this exclusivity is restricted to departures from Marfa and Cirkewwa, while pick-ups for the purposes of pleasure, fishing or diving are not affected.”

“Comino Ferries Coop has also committed to investing €5 million in new hybrid vessels which are safer, more comfortable and environmentally friendly as well as setting up a central ticketing system.”

A spokesperson for the Comino Ferries Coop added that “visitors stand to benefit enormously from the new service. Not only will they enjoy improved comfort and reliability, but for the first time they will also be able to visit two locations in Comino for the price of a single ticket – which will also relieve the ever-growing pressure on the Blue Lagoon in the summer months.”

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