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The Maltese Government is asking ride-hailing platform apps to “immediately” begin the application of geofencing measures around official taxi stands, starting from the one just outside the Phoenicia Hotel in Floriana.

The three ride-hailing apps active in Malta – Bolt, eCabs and Uber – will then need to “gradually implement” geofencing in other areas, including the airport, berthing sites of passenger ships such as the ferries to and from Gozo and Sicily, and more than 70 other taxi stands around Malta.

Geofencing means that cab drivers will not be able to accept a request for a ride if they are within a certain distance of a taxi stand. The distance varies from 250m from major locations like the airport and ferry berths, to 100m for taxi stands in other location.

It has long been called for by Malta’s official white taxis, who claim that cabs are muscling in on their business.

Legislation prohibiting cabs from operating in these areas was introduced in July 2023, but was criticised for being “practically unenforceable”.

At the time, Malta White Taxi CEO Malcolm Ciantar told BusinessNow.mt that “one cannot expect Transport Malta officials to monitor an entire island.”

He added: “The [geofencing] system, in use around the world, automatically switches off cab drivers’ apps when they are within these restricted zones. This creates hassle-free enforcement since these drivers would naturally want to exit these zones to be able to receive bookings.”

The move comes just one day after the Light Passenger Operators Association, representing cab drivers, called off a protest after coming to an agreement with the Ministry for Transport that promised that it “shall be included in such discussions [about geofencing] aimed to implement such measures in a holistic approach.”

Cab operators argue that the policy will result in longer waiting times, poorer service and higher prices, since, after dropping someone off at the airport, for example, they will have to drive to Gudja before accepting another ride from the same location they were just at.

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