The government will be issuing a new request for proposals from bidders for a logistics hub in Ħal Far – with the Ministry for the Economy refusing to give any official reason as to why the original one issued in October had flopped.
Sources, however, said that there were no bidders for the international call, describing it as “a huge embarrassment” for the government, which would now have to rethink the terms of the concession it was offering.
Sources told the Times of Malta that the terms of the long-awaited concession were not enticing to bidders, with one asking why the site was going to be given to one operator, rather than allowing units to be offered ad hoc through Malta Industrial Parks.
“With something like this, you always worry that the government may already have someone in mind and you simply do not bother to waste time and money,” one frustrated source said.
With something like this, you always worry that the government may already have someone in mind
Another source said that it was clear from the outset that the concession would only be feasible if bidders were able to bring in a specialist partner who had the network to generate demand.
The RFP issued last October through the Privatisation Unit said the eventual operator would be given a non-renewable 65-year lease of the 45,000 square metre site. The successful bidder would need to make an upfront payment as pay an annual concession fee of €11.65 per square metre – working out to over €500,000. Applicants were given until January 13, 2017 to submit their proposals.
Interested parties would have needed to undertake the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the hub, presently being used as a customs groupage complex.
There are currently 34 operators working from the Ħal Far groupage complex who were assured at the time by Economy Minister Chris Cardona that their operations would remain unaltered.
Last December, CEO of Express Trailers Franco Azzopardi had said that inventories in warehouses needed to be ‘turned around’ between five and eight times, meaning the 400,000 cubic metres of warehousing space being offered at Ħal Far would probably translate to 1.6 million cubic metres carried to and from the Freeport annually – working out to a further 400 trailers to be exported weekly.