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Marsaxlokk sailing close

A successful and timely outcome to the power station and gas feeder project is essential for a number of reasons, all of them obvious. The obvious, however, does not clear the air. That will not happen so long as there is risk attached to the proposals.

No project is risk free. Regarding Marsaxlokk and gas storage, controversy continues to rage about the extent of the risk involved in storing gas in a tanker moored inside Marsa­xlokk harbour.

The risk in that regard has been one accident in 10,000 years. Those who oppose that option point out what is self evident enough. All it takes is one accident to create a tragedy, and it can happen at any time.

That is being risk averse to an extreme. Whatever the element of risk it makes the underlying project unfeasible. If insurance and reinsurance companies argued that way no project would be insurable. On the other hand, at least as far as I know, no comparable risk measurement has been published for gas supplied from a tanker moored outside Marsaxlokk harbour.

That would serve only for comparative purposes.

By my reasoning, it would not decide the issue one way or the other. The experts are divided. Both sides have provided the views of experts who speak persuasively about their assessment. It is not that there is no risk involved, but that the risk cannot be squeezed away.

In fact the argument can be extended further. Are the power stations that already exist at Delimara risk-free? Cannot a fire there trigger an explosion with calamitous effects?

This should also have been entered into when power stations were first mooted.

I would not suppose that the fact that no hue and cry was raised was due to negligence, or to the fact that nobody chose to play political games with risk.

Are the power stations that already exist at Delimara risk-free? Cannot a fire there trigger an explosion with calamitous effects?

The risky gas tanks in the middle of a residential area in Birżebbuġa have been criticised for years. The tanks are still there. Again, the political pressure behind a demand to remove the tanks bears no comparison with what is happening now.

One should not attrbute political motivation to every complaint that is raised, especially when the complaint comes from the public. And it is no secret that the public of the Marsaxlokk area have been making their views known quite vociferously.

The harder the issue, the greater the need for a calm discussion, although some may feel that is their kirchen and it is they who are feeling the heat.

An early solution to the project, in the sense that its im­plimentation will start, is necessary in a political context. If the project does not move ahead as planned the government, will not only lose face... It will also lose a major plank from the platform which gave it such a massive electoral majority. There would be all sorts of repurcussions with charges flying about that the administration has lost a chunk of its mandate to govern.

That is by the way. The government also made things more difficult for itself by the timelines it set for the project to come on stream. Those timelines are extremely demanding. I reckon, though, that it will not be the end of the earth if they are not fully met.

What will count is the impact on domestic consumers’ pockets and, later, on business outlays. That will count a great deal from the socio-economic standpoint. Practically everybody agrees that water and energy tariffs in Malta are too high.

Low consumers feel the pinch since bills are relative to their incomes. Those on higher incomes still feel the pinch and are looking forward to some relief.

Enterprises want a reduction in their costs. It will have a marginal effect on their competitiveness. But competiveness as much as anything else is measured at the margin.

The debate will soon be over. Once decisions are taken one hopes that undue scare­mongering will be removed from the agenda.

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