Challenging year predicted
A number of major projects – such as the logistics hub and the Mediterranean oil and gas hub – should take off in 2017 creating opportunities but there are also challenges.
Chairman and CEO
The logistics hub should be awarded in the first quarter of the year. What should the new operator do to make the most impact?
Express Trailers believes the logistics hub could possibly correct the growing imbalance between imported and exported cargo, thus absorbing the costs of carrying empty trailers burdening our national supply chain. The proposed project could bring further economic value to our island, by creating more investment and employment. Hence, the project should be commended by all. However, the critical success factors of such a project point at a number of realities that need to be addressed.
The new operator will need to understand the limitations on our island in terms of entry and exit. Basically we have the Freeport, the Luqa air terminal and Lab Wharf as conduits in and out of Malta. The operator will have a volume of 400,000 cubic metres. The effective storage space volume multiplied by the number of times the warehouse will be turned around will return the volume of cargo that will be imported and exported in a year. The operator will need to assess whether our conduit infrastructure can handle that movement to give the return that makes economic sense from a commercial viewpoint.
The operator may also want to assess the domestic capacity in terms of logistics. The strain on local hauliers like us in terms of additional investment in equipment will depend on the volume of cargo that will hit the roads. The operator will need to encourage the propensity to invest and gear up for this increased activity.
One should probably not undermine the additional stresses on further space required for trailer parks. Additional investment in equipment needs significant open parking space.
From a demand management perspective, it is a given that the operator will already have the volumes of west-bound cargo to be ‘hubbed’ from the Far East through Malta, northward to Europe or south to North Africa via the Freeport.
All told, the viability of ‘hubbing’ needs to remain conscious of the physical limitations and on further investment in our terminals, remaining also sensitive to our environmental obligations.
Environmental NGOs and a considerable number of people have become very negative about development. How does that affect future projects?
Negativity towards grand scale projects has always been present; nowadays it is more evident due to the social media boom and increased exposure to the public in general.
The public is not against holistic architecture, and “green” building techniques are the way forward. These mean giving major importance to aesthetics, new and innovative building techniques, modern electrical engineering as well as eco-friendly materials being used – and last but not least, the social responsibility of the building contractors involved.
Within our organisation, we give a lot of importance to building holistically and our most recent project, 89 Wine Pressers Wharf at the Valletta Waterfront, is the living testament of this. We converted a 17th century vault into an office block while maintaining all the antique vaults’ original features and incorporating into this over 1,400 square metres of office space apart from common areas, underground parking and a beautiful roof garden overlooking the Valletta Grand Harbour. Our secondary objective was to make the building more eco-friendly and economical to run, which we did through thermal insulation VRF cooling, energy efficient lighting, and the use of recycled grey water in sanitary facilities.
CEO and president
Betsson has called on the government to lobby for the gaming industry’s access to other jurisdictions – do you foresee any progress in 2017?
It is not only about “access to a jurisdiction”; it is the continued implementation of local gaming legislation in various member states that is in breach of EU law. This is beyond access; it is about fundamental EU principles and rights.
The Malta Gaming Authority is already doing a great job but this needs to be raised to the highest political level, as it is important for the future of Malta.
I do think the responsible ministers are well aware and I anticipate this will be part of discussions when Malta takes the Presidency of the EU in 2017.