Central Link road contractors’ consortium among ‘frontrunners’ of bidders for Marsaskala marina

A group of wealthy contractors, considered to be very close to Transport Minister Ian Borg, have joined forces to bid for the contract to develop and manage the controversial marina in Marsaskala, a project the government appears determined to go ahead with despite strong opposition from residents and NGO’s.

One of the consortia which submitted its interest to turn Marsaskala Bay into a 700-berth marina – Skala Marina JV – consists of the same group of companies currently working on the building of the 50 million central link project on behalf of Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta.

Maritime industry sources, who described the Skala Marina JV as one of the frontrunners to win the 50-year concession, told The Shift that while the businessmen behind the consortium have no experience whatsoever in the maritime industry, they have named Marina di Valletta Ltd as their lead partner to increase their chances to win the bid.

Who is Skala Marina JV?

The consortium, one of four which is competing for the marina concession, is considered as the one with the closest connections to Transport Minister Ian Borg.

Skala’s lead partner – Marina di Valletta Ltd – is the same company which under the political remit of Ian Borg was given a concession to build and manage Transport Malta’s marina in Pieta.

Apart from foreign investors, the company also includes Julian Zammit Tabona of the Fortina Group as one of its shareholders, and Dennis Baldacchino – the owner of Tal-Maghtab Ltd, the company that built the headquarters of the Labour Party.

Valletta di Marina was awarded the concession by Transport Malta during the time when James Piscopo – the former Labour Party CEO – was its chairman. It later emerged that Piscopo was in business with one of the Marina di Valletta shareholders  – the Zammit Tabonas – when the company won the government concession.

The Shift’s sources said that while the lead partner, Marina di Valletta, has extensive experience in the marine industry, the other partners’ expertise in the field is negligible.

The investors, all mega road building contractors that have been awarded repeated multi-million-euro contracts and direct orders since 2013, are known to be among those closest to Minister Borg.

V&C Contractors Ltd – owned by Vince Borg, known as Censu n-Nizz, a former canvasser of PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami turned Labour – is one of the main investors in the marina consortium, together with his partners in Bitmac Ltd which operates an illegal batching plant in Naxxar.

Vince Borg of V&C Contractors is one of the main investors in Skala Marina JV

Schembri Barbros, another familiar name in the road building industry, and Naipaul Developments, owned by Paul Magro of tarmac and road building company Asfaltar Ltd, are the other partners in the Skala Marina consortium.

The four road contractors involved are the same shareholders of Central Link Ltd – the company building the central link road between Mriehel and Rabat on a 50 million government contract.

Three other bidders

As well as Skala Marina JV, The Shift last week revealed the identities of the three other bidders on the project: Bonnici Brothers Services Ltd, led by Gilbert Bonnici, a former business partner of Prime Minister Robert Abela; G&P Borg, another large building contractor based in Naxxar; and Harbour Management JV.

The latter has Harbour Management Limited as its lead partner – the company that operates the Mgarr Marina in Gozo – and is planning to develop another controversial marina in Xemxija. It’s owned by Pierre and Paula Balzan. No information is yet known about its partners in the joint venture, if there are any.

Marina decision for after the elections

The plans to build the marina in Marsaskala have caused public outrage, with hundreds of protesters having protested that the marina will ‘kill’ their bay. Despite this, the government has gone ahead with its plans, and is now evaluating bids.

However, the decision won’t be announced this year: Transport Malta sources told The Shift that Prime Minister Robert Abela has directed the regulator to hold its final decision until after the election, which he has said will take place next year.

Following the protests, the Prime Minister attempted to mollify residents by claiming that the plans for the marina “are not cast in stone” and that the government was only testing the water.

However, according to the TM sources, “both the Prime Minister and Minister Borg are all for this marina and will follow it through once Labour will be returned to power”.

Marsaskala is a Labour stronghold and the Prime Minister – also a resident – is seeking to avoid stirring up fresh controversy so close to the polls. 

TM sources said that a marina in Marsaskala will also be the ‘ideal’ complement to a luxury development already pencilled-in for the former Jerma Hotel,which Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli is seeking to convert into blocks of luxury apartments and a new hotel.

                           
                               
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