A new €1.6 million berth in Cirkewwa, inaugurated by two ministers more than two months ago, is still not in use because the 100-metre-long pier remains incomplete, lacking essential fenders and other important equipment crucial for any ship docking.
Transport minister Ian Borg and Gozo minister Clint Camilleri held a grand inauguration ceremony at the beginning of June to announce the new facilities “completed in time for the use of Gozo Channel during the busy summer months”.
Instead, the agency responsible for the re-building of the pier – Infrastructure Malta – left the new ‘investment’ incomplete, making it unusable by Gozo Channel ferries and other vessels.
“While the ministers, as has now become the norm, took all the media mileage possible from this simple repair of the berth, no one from their ministry ever bothered to check why the new facilities have been left abandoned and never used,” a senior Gozo Channel source told The Shift.
“This so-called investment has been a total waste of money as the pier is unusable until someone remembers that a berth needs fenders. This is a classic example of how the government is only interested in publicity and nothing else. Its’s like buying a new car without tyres!” the official complained.
The new berth would have been ideal for Gozo Channel during the past weeks as it would have saved hundreds of travellers from waiting in the scorching heat to board a vessel and make their crossing to Gozo. Without access to the ‘new’ berth, the ferries have had to use the current facilities making their service slower.
Works on the new berth started in 2020, when the Planning Authority issued a Development Notification Order so that Infrastructure Malta could expedite the work and complete it for the summer 2021 season.
Despite the rush, the berth remains abandoned and no works are underway to complete the project.
‘Caqnu’ repairing terminal built just eight years ago
Meanwhile, works are ongoing on the passenger terminal at Cirkewwa, which has severe structural problems even though it was only completed in 2013 at a multi-million euro cost, partly financed by the EU.
The terminal’s gangway, which serves as a bridge for foot passengers to board the vessel, has deteriorated quickly while the concrete columns supporting the structure need reinforcing with piled up blocks because cracks and fissures have appeared in the original building.
According to a technical report conducted by UK engineering firm CTP Consulting, the concrete originally used by the Polidano Group, known as ‘Caqnu’, in the building of the terminal was not up to the required standard and needed to be replaced only six years after its inauguration.
Despite Polidano having delivered an inferior building, he was still paid in full for the €10 million project out of taxpayer and EU funds and the government failed to start legal procedures against the company for the sub-standard project.
Instead, following discussions spearheaded by Minister Ian Borg and officials from his ministry, an out of court settlement was reached, which sees Polidano and the government sharing the costs of the necessary repairs.
The Shift is informed that the government will be paying Polidano hundreds of thousands of euro for the repairs to the building necessitated by the company’s own defective original work.
The government made this arrangement after accepting arguments made by Polidano that the defects were the result of “shortcomings in the tender document”.