Will the PN retain the fast ferry service?

The PN has said that it will be modifying the picturesque harbour of Mgarr in Gozo. This harbour which is the gateway to Gozo is set for some major changes. 

This because the Nationalist Party have argued for an increase in the number of ferries from the current four to five. At present there is nowhere where five ships could be berthed safely.

To accommodate the fifth ship, a Nationalist Government will have three options. The least viable option is to build berthing facilities instead of the present yacht marina. This is highly unlikely as it would directly conflict with property rights of yacht owners. This is also an economically lucrative niche for Gozo.

The second option open for the Nationalists would be to remove the current facilities for Gozitan fishermen. This again is hardly an option as this constituency is quite PN-leaning and is also another important economic niche for Gozo.

The third option is to remove the fast ferry service and berth the proposed merchandise ferry instead of it. Incidentally the PN manifesto fails to mention the fast ferry service at all, despite that popularity of this innovation in the links between the two islands.

However, in order to incorporate their plan to increase the Gozo Channel fleet, a Nationalist administration would have no other option but to discontinue the fast ferry service.

This also because the Leader of the Opposition decided, on his own steam – as the measure is not listed in the PN manifesto – that the Mgarr harbour will also have an expanded presence of the Armed Forces. This will involve the construction of new military facilities, possibly impacting the berthing of fishermen and yachts. 

The fast ferry will thus be the sacrificial lamb for Bernard Grech to be able to deliver his promise to add another ship to the Gozo channel fleet. At the same time, many have commented that the fact that a Nationalist administration would be investing tens of millions to buy two new dedicated ferry ships puts into question its commitment to the permanent link option. 

It appears that the latest twist in the PN’s policies towards transport between Malta and Gozo reflects the conflict between the two main PN candidates.

On the one hand, Alex Borg favours a permanent link, including a metro connection. He also favours an air link. On the other hand, Chris Said is rubbishing both options and insisting on focusing on the boosting of the Gozo Channel fleet.

The air link – although it had been mentioned several times by the PN – failed to make it to the final cut of the PN manifesto.

Meanwhile the hundreds of Gozitans that daily use the fast ferry and who are saving at least two hours while commuting every day have been left in the dark by the PN about the future of the service.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Robert Abela pledged publicly that the fast ferry will not only continue operating but that he will support its expansion.