The Malta Maritime Forum has lashed out against “most unwelcome” plans to clear the Grand Harbour for the regatta on 31st March, saying they could have “grave consequences, including changes in itinerary and future cancellations”.
The organisation, which brings together stakeholder in the maritime, logistics and transport sector in Malta, warned that a notice issued by Transport Malta to vacate Pinto 4 and 5 and clear the sea lane in the Grand Harbour gives the impression that cruise bookings can be changed around without due notice.
It explained that this is not conducive to giving “unrelenting and actual backing to local and foreign investors”, one of the MMF’s main proposals for a new Government.
The MMF said it made this call in its electoral proposals because time and again, over the past years, it was required to intervene in matters where the interests of its members needed safeguarding.
Such instances created significant operational hardship, reputational risk and financial costs to a number of its members.
It described Transport Malta’s notice as “most unwelcome to the MMF and its directly affected members particularly in such a sensitive period on which all the hopes of the cruise industry were pinned for some recovery and normality from the COVID pandemic”.
The organisation ssaid that two important cruise ship calls are expected for the date in question, and noted that the bookings have been confirmed since 2019.
“Beyond the short-term additional costs, the industry is most concerned with the reputational damage that this unwelcome development will bring about.,” it said.
“After a very hard two years characterised by COVID with local health protocols still lagging behind other ports and a two-year-old notice to mariners still in force, besides other hardships, the industry and its investors expect more sensitive treatment,” read the statement.
“Additionally, advising the cruise line that priority is being given to traditional sea races in the port may sound rather frivolous and unprofessional with grave consequences including changes in itinerary and future cancellations.”
The MMF clarified that it is not requesting the cancellation of the regatta, saying it believes that the races may still go ahead without the need to shift the cruise vessels to Boiler Wharf, thereby avoiding any negative impact on the cruise industry.
“For this reason, the MMF requests the authorities to give due consideration to this decision and to organize a meeting in order to find a plausible solution in a manner which respects traditional festivities but also the interests legitimate rights of the private, foreign investor whilst safeguarding the economic interests of the country and its people.”
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