Four bidders, including two consortia, have formally submitted their interest in building and managing a controversial planned yacht marina in Marsascala Bay in exchange for a 50-year concession from the government, The Shift can reveal.
Prime Minister Robert Abela’s former business partner, Gilbert Bonnici – with whom the Prime Minister and his wife invested in a property deal to convert a terraced house into a block of flats in Iklin – is one of the four bidders through his company Bonnici Brothers Services Limited, part of road construction giants Bonnici Brothers.
The Shift news is informed that by the closure of the pre-qualification questionnaire – one of the three-stage procurement process managed by Transport Malta – four bids were made.
Apart from the submission from Bonnici Brothers, Transport Malta received bids from G&P Borg Ltd – another mega construction company – and two consortia, Scala Marina JV and Harbour Management JV.
It is not yet known which companies or individuals are included in the latter two consortia, although it is not excluded that these may also include businessmen who are currently interested in the redevelopment of the former Jerma Palace Hotel to be tuned into a mixed development including hundreds of luxury apartments.
For these businessmen, the turning of the bay into a marina fits in perfectly with their plan for the former hotel site.
While tender details are still scarce, Transport Malta, under the political direction of Minister Ian Borg, is planning to offer a 50 year concession to the bidder making the best financial and technical offer.
So far, the plans show that the concessionaire will be given the exclusive right to take over the management of all of Marsascala Bay, constructing a marina which can accomodate a minimum of 700 berths, from small-scale pleasure boats to super yachts over 36 metres.
The TM plans also gives responsibility to the concessionaire for the reorganisation of the bay, including the removal of all the 600 boats currently moored in the bay. These will also need to be given an option inside the new marina facilities, at a staggered annual tariff which will rise after three years from the start of the new marina’s operations.
Conservative estimates by TM show that the marina’s new concessionaire will be able to generate revenue of around €200 million over the 50-year period of the concession, or around €4 million a year.
Marsascala residents completely ignored
The continuation of the tendering process for this concession, published by the government during the mid-August Santa Maria weekend to get as little publicity as possible, immediately backfired as hundreds of residents descended onto the streets of the former fishing village to protest.
Opposition against the creation of a new marina was fierce, with many residents describing the ‘development’ as the last nail in the bay’s coffin.
Despite the public outrage over the plans, Transport Minister Ian Borg – backed by Prime Minister Robert Abela – insisted that the marina was needed as more Maltese were buying pleasure boats.
Although the Prime Minister – currently residing in Marsacala but planning to move to a farmhouse in the rural outskirts of the town – played down the issue, stating that this was just a preliminary exercise to evaluate interest in the marina project. However, he still allowed the procurement process to continue.
Abela, an avid boat enthusiast himself, currently the owner of a €300,000 Azimut yacht, insisted that the marina would be a game changer for Marsacala, once it is built.
Despite the Prime Minister’s insistence that “nothing was set in stone”, it is known among key government officials that Abela is in favour of the creation of the Marsacala Bay yacht marina, although the ‘unpopular’ project would have to await until after the next general election.
Transport Malta is now expected to evaluate the four bids it received and shortlist three of them. The latter will be invited to participate in the next stage, after which the preferred bidder will be offered the concession.