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Safe haven in the mid-Med

These islands’ main attractions are their history, culture and, in my opinion, the warm seas, the best in the Mediterranean.

Somehow, the qualities that are attractive to the maritime industry have, so far, been somewhatsidestepped.

In this day and age, the yachting industry has vast economic growth potential, because of its big multiplier factor, if given the priority it deserves and provided the right strategies are adopted.

One of my main concerns is that Marsamxett harbour is not given the sort of attention it should get. It is undoubtedly the second most important harbour in Malta, especially, since most of the marinas are located on all sides of this port.

The Achilles’ heel of this scenic harbour is its exposure to the infamous gregale and southeast strong winds, along with their treacherous currents. At times, even the protected Msida Marina is not enough of a safe haven during these gale force winds.

There have been anxious moments at both Sliema ferries and the Tignè quayside when there is a heavy swell, which even affected the way in which the Tignè wharf is constructed. Waves pounding the shore have caused traffic jams and considerable damage to establishments located on the Front. Boats would have to unleash from their berths and venture into safer zones as a precaution and some pontoons become dangerous to tread upon during these storms.

There seems to be only one solution for all this: construct two breakwaters on each side of the entrance to Tignè Point. Easier said than done, true but if there is political will to consider such a huge investment, then one can assume that it is up to us, the maritime fraternity, to persuade the authorities to really work this one out.

A protected Marsamxett harbour will lead to global opportunities for financial providers interested in joining public-private partnerships.

This can be one of the most strategic harbours in the Mediterranean and include the expansion of more marinas at all sides of the harbour (including Manoel Island), particularly at the Sliema and Valetta quaysides.

Bearing in mind future trends in the industry and ready to implement new strategies, one can forecast a commercial opportunity for yachts of all shapes and sizes berthing in their thousands if pontoons are well planned.

A marina breakwater set against the historical background of Valletta bastions should prove attractive to super yacht owners to use this safe harbour as a home port or for brief stopovers. Besides the financial aspect of having super yachts staying over, their millionaire owners might also be attracted to invest in real estate, particularly in the case of new developments, most of which are still unoccupied.

There is also every reason to believe – also judging by our experience – that, in the next two years, the Rolex Middle Sea Race will have record entries from all over the world, thus creating a ‘beautiful’ problem to the Royal Malta Yacht Club to have enough safe berths to meet the requirements of the whole fleet in the month of October.

This year, the RMYC had again to struggle to solve this berthing problem and the only solution was to spread the yachts over the club’s pontoons and two other marinas in both harbours.

There can be no doubt that the success of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, which is recognised all over the world as one of the best three races, will attract more maxi and mini yachts to Malta.

It’s time for the powers-that-be to get smart by considering seriously to invest wisely by constructing such a marina breakwater in the immediate future. One has to bear in mind also that this island is surrounded by a substantial number of modern marinas both in Sicily and North Africa.

It’s all there for the taking and if ever such a call were heeded, then Marsamxett harbour will turn out to be another lifeline to our maritime industry. It will also be one of the most ideally-situated modern marinas in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Teddie Borg is PRO of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

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