Indications that sea transport will increase
A call for tenders for an eight-year contract to provide a scheduled ferry service across Grand Harbour and between Sliema and Marsamxett against a maximum fee of €1.50 has been issued.
The operator will have to guarantee a year-round service, with each ferry trip lasting a maximum of 30 minutes from one landing place to another.
The tender also offers the “exclusive use” of three landing places: Sliema Ferries, next to the waterpolo pitch in Marsamxett and in the inner Dockyard Creek in Cospicua, which will be upgraded and maintained by the transport authority.
The ferry service for Marsamxett has to be operational by the end of June, and that within the Grand Harbour will be up and running by September.
Developing a regular maritime service formed part of a government strategy to promote alternative types of transport, reducing road traffic, its costs and environmental impact, the authority said.
A ferry service connecting Valletta, Sliema and Cottonera was of “prime importance” because of the high touristic value and population density, among other things.
Even though there was a “steep decline” in sea transportation, there was a “steady increase” in the Sliema-Valletta connection and there were strong indicators that passengers – especially tourists – would increase.
The government “is confident that it is possible to increase the popularity of this type of transport” among the Maltese, the authority said.
To make it more attractive for prospective bidders, the transport authority said that there might be an “initial financial compensation” until the volume of passengers made it profitable.
This service will complement the water taxis and traditional boats, known as dgħajjes tal-pass, that already ply the harbour area.
Passengers will be given a free ticket for the Barrakka lift in Valletta, easing access to the capital city, once the lift starts being used by 2013.
The tariffs will be regulated and any increases, limited to service-related costs such as fuel, must be approved by the authority and can only be made every three years.
Adults will pay a maximum of €1.50 per trip while children under 12, the elderly and disabled people will pay 50c. There will also be a weekly pass – for unrestricted use – costing a maximum of €10.
The ferries must be easily accessible to all and be run by a qualified crew, fluent in English and Maltese, who must wear a uniform and be fully trained.
The call for tenders closes on February 16.