A number of local marine service providers have expressed surprise with The Shift after Minister Miriam Dalli made a media appearance last July to inaugurate the Environment and Resources Authority’s new Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB).
What stood out most prominently during the media opportunity, orchestrated as they all are, was not the boat itself but, rather, the minister’s statement that the ERA had made an investment of over €170,000 in the craft.
The final price tag is in stark contrast to the €52,000 price for the basic model of the same RHIB. While the local agent marks up the price significantly to €90,000, it is still difficult to determine what constituted the additional €80,000 on the final price tag.
One boating expert reaching out to The Shift observed that while RHIBs vary in size and power, “the price paid by taxpayers for this boat is very high”.
Another remarked how, “It might be that the ERA ordered a lot of expensive extras for its requirements. However, still, to triple the original price is quite a feat.”
Research conducted by The Shift found the ERA acquired the boat through a tender awarded to local agent JC Marine Services Ltd, located in Maghtab.
The tender was issued last December when the ERA was under the political remit of Minister Aaron Farrugia and it was awarded at the end of February just a few weeks before the election. No appeal was filed against the tender’s award.
The ERA, however, is refusing to provide The Shift with details on how a RHIB inaugurated this summer for ‘maritime surveillance’ has cost taxpayers more than triple the basic model’s price.
Questions sent to ERA and to Miriam Dalli, the minister now politically responsible for the authority, over the past four weeks have fallen on deaf ears and remained without a reply despite various reminders.
The Shift asked the ERA and the minister to explain how the price the authority paid for the 27-foot Altamarea GT RHIB, equipped with two 150hp engines, was over three times higher than the basic price.
They were also asked to provide a list of all the ‘extras’ ordered for boat, over and above the basic requirements, and which might have contributed to the increase in the boat’s final price.
While no details whatsoever have been forthcoming to The Shift, some scant details were provided to Newsbook. According to the report, the ERA’s new boat boasts a strengthened hull, additional safety equipment (a life raft and specialised seats), other undefined “ancillary” equipment and a five-year maintenance agreement for the hull and engines.
Maritime services experts speaking to The Shift, however, have cast doubt on whether such extras would amount to €80,000 but are at a loss over making a guesstimate without an itemised list of all the extras.
RHIBs are becoming all the rage among a number of government agencies but, in addition to their hefty price tag, particularly so in the ERA’s case, they also come with high running and maintenance costs.
Transport Malta, the Police Force and the Civil Protection Department have, in fact, all bought their own RHIBs and the ERA’s new addition joins the government’s growing fleet.