Regatta enthusiasts call for reopening of tender process

Shortcomings hamper tender process for March and September regattas.

The tender awarded for the organisation of the March and September regattas in the Grand Harbour should be reopened following a number of shortcomings, rowing clubs and a former organiser said.

Regatta enthusiasts are demanding a revision of the contract awarded in January for the organisation of the regattas held twice a year at the Grand Harbour after the first regatta of the year was blighted with shortcomings, causing a 90-minute delay.

The faulty organisation resulted in snatched nautical ropes and missing equipment, which caused annoyance among the participating clubs, rowers and enthusiasts.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Kevin Agius - who had been awarded the tender to organise the regattas for the past seven years - said that the bidder, who was awarded the tender in January 2013, cut many corners and as a result, the 19 March regatta was a shambles.

The contract is awarded for the set up of the track, the starting and finishing lines, boats for judges and safety measures, among others.

The contract awarded for the organisation of five regattas, up to March 2015, was awarded to the lowest bidder, however Agius said this had an impact on the organisation of this year's first regatta.

Agius, a regatta enthusiast himself, explained that he had organised the regattas for over seven years, however when the tendering process reopened last year, he raised his bid to €50,000 from around €39,000 to cover spiralling expenses, such as the barges provided by sub-contractors.

The tender was awarded to the lowest bidder, who priced his services at around €40,000 and Agius says this led to unprofessional organisation which did not fulfil the criteria set out by the call for tender.

"I expect that the process will be reopened because the organisation of the regatta on 19 March was disastrous. It is clear that the person who was awarded the tender could not make ends meet by bidding so low and therefore the organisation was terrible because at that price expenses such as the provision of barges lining up the course could not be covered," Agius said.

He explained that this year's races were marred by a lack of proper markings, unsuitable starting and finishing lines and the barges lining the course were replaced by ropes tied to existing buoys and as a consequence, the entrances to the Vittoriosa Marina and parts of the Grand Harbour were blocked.

Agius pointed out that the costly organisation requires a lot of planning and when he was responsible for the organisation he would hardly break even due to the expanses involved, including the employment of nine persons.

He insisted that organisation was "shameful" and that the clubs participating in the races shared his views. 

"It is clear that the tender was won based on precarious conditions, resulting in unprofessional organisation. Therefore the Maltese Sports Council should analyse the situation and consider disqualifying the tender because the criteria were not met."

The boat race at the Grand Harbour, dating back to the 16th century, is contested by seven rowing clubs based in towns and cities on the shores of the harbour, namely Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Senglea, Kalkara, Marsa, Valletta and Birzebbugia.

Traditionally, the races are held on Freedom Day (31 March) and Victory Day (8 September), with the first recorded Victory Day regatta tracing back to 1822.

The contract awarded for the organisation of five regattas was awarded to the lowest bidder, but this had an impact on the organisation of this year's first regatta, which started 90 minutes late due to a number of shortcomings.

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