Challenge to Transport Malta ‘irregular’ concession dropped in final hour

‘We gave up’ – Supreme Travel claims

 

A long-drawn legal challenge over a public concession that a private transport company has been mounting with success against Transport Malta for over two years has suddenly been dropped at the eleventh hour and on the eve of a possible final victory.

After winning all the cases against Transport Malta since mid-2020 over an ‘irregular’ extension of the Grand Harbour transport concession, Supreme Travel of Zejtun last week suddenly dropped the case, even though it was on the verge of an unprecedented legal victory.

As the Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB) was about to re-hear the case against Transport Malta one last time last week, as had been ordered by the Court of Appeal, Supreme Travel informed the board that it was no longer interested in continuing the case.

Contacted by The Shift, a spokesman for Supreme Travel only said that the company “has given up” and did not want to continue.

“This has been going on for a long time with the authorities seeking all possible avenues to lengthen the process. We’ve decided to stop here as we gave up trying to obtain justice,” he added.

Pressed by The Shift to say whether their withdrawal from proceedings followed some sort of compromise deal with the government or with the concession’s current private operators, the spokesman did not reply.

Maritime industry sources who spoke to The Shift described the development as “a big surprise” and expressed serious reservations about whether Supreme had truly “given up” on the case or whether there was some other reason behind their withdrawal that they were choosing not to declare.

“The owners of Supreme Travel are not known to give up easily,” one maritime industry expert observed.

The case goes back to December 2020 when Transport Malta, then the responsibility of Minister Ian Borg, signed a secret deal with the incumbent private company for a three-year extension to the eight-year concession it held for the exclusive passenger ferry services between Sliema, Valletta and Cottonera.

The deal, irregular under EU law as it had not first been published as a tender in the interest of fair competition, was signed with Marsamxetto Steamferry Services Ltd, a joint venture between the Fortina Group and the Bianchi Group.

The deal was kept secret for months and was only revealed by The Shift following a series of parliamentary questions tabled by then Opposition MP Mario Galea.

As soon as the questionable deal became public, Supreme Travel, a competing interested party, cried foul play and started a legal challenge before the Public Contracts Review Board, which ruled in Transport Malta’s favour on a technicality.

Supreme Travel challenged the ruling again before the Court of Appeal, which reversed the PCRB’s decision and gave Supreme Travel the right to defend its case once again.

The government, through Transport Malta, still challenged the court’s ruling and asked for a retrial.

Again, the Court of Appeal threw out Transport Malta’s attempt to lengthen the process.

In its decision last March, the court slammed Transport Malta for trying to stop the case against its ‘irregular’ concession extension and upheld Supreme Travel’s arguments. It ordered the case to the PCRB one last time for a final decision.

But on the eve of the last hearing, when it seemed the case was a sure win for Supreme Travel, the company withdrew the case.

                           
                               
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4 Comments
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Francis Said
Francis Said
26 days ago

The only logical reason being that the concession was not financially viable. Unless there are ulterior motives.

David
David
26 days ago

Money talks and probably our taxxes would be used.

viv
viv
26 days ago

Be sure that someone’s wallet just got fatter.

makjavel
makjavel
25 days ago

Who has been bought out?
Was the laundry threatened?
Time will tell.

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