Gozo Tourism Association calls on Transport Malta to reconsinder 'discrimatory' Comino boat service tender

Association says Transport Malta's decision to appoint a sole operator to provide scheduled boat service to Comino was discrimintary to other operators and could harm Gozo business

The operator will be granted exclusive rights to berthing facilities and landing places in Blue Lagoon and Santa Marija Bay in Comino
The operator will be granted exclusive rights to berthing facilities and landing places in Blue Lagoon and Santa Marija Bay in Comino

The decision by Transport Malta to appoint one sole operator to provide scheduled passenger services between Malta and Comino was discriminatory and could cause Gozo to lose out on lucrative business, the Gozo Tourism Association has claimed.

In a statement issued this morning, the association called upon Transport Malta to reconsider its decision in the interest of all boat service operators and Gozo business.

Boat 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.

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 incensed the other 40 to 50 ferry operators who feel that, after many years of providing services and investing in their operations, they are being unfairly elbowed out of the sector.

In a statement on Tuesday, Transport Malta said that Comino Ferries Coop – which has been granted the service – had been the only operator to bid for a tender issued last July for a single entity to run the Comino ferry service from Marfa and Cirkewwa.

But the Gozo Tourism Association is insisting that through the directives as listed in its Port Notice No 01/2020, Transport Malta was creating a monopoly and thus discriminating with commercial vessels owners and operators many of which are Gozo based.

“Furthermore, as specified in this aforementioned Port Notice, the operator who will be providing the scheduled passenger ferry service between Malta and Comino is being allocated the entirety of all landing quays in Cirkewwa, Marfa and around Comino,” the association said in a statement.

These quays were being declared “Priority Landing Places” for the use of the chosen operator, thus hindering the normal operation of the unscheduled sea transport services offered by the other operators, including services offered to divers, conference and incentive groups, and other leisure services.

The Gozo Tourism Association said it was therefore concerned that if the landing quays of Marfa and Cirkewwa are not available at any time for all operators,  Gozo might lose out on incentives and conferences groups that mostly cross to the sister Island through these landing places.

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