Passenger capacity on Gozo Channel vessel halved as leased ship is too old

Lease retained despite cost to Gozo Channel, which is running at a loss

 

A 35-year-old Greek vessel that Gozo Channel has been leasing for the last three years at a reported cost of €13,000 a day can now only carry half the passengers it was commissioned to transport due to safety concerns.

The MV Nikolaus, leased to Gozo Channel by direct order, has a capacity of some 700 passengers,  but Transport Malta inspectors have slashed this to a maximum of 350 passengers while the vessel is crossing between Malta and Gozo.

The vessel, leased since 2019 when Justyne Caruana was Gozo Minister, was acquired from a small Piraeus-based shipping company that operates ferry crossings between ports in Corfu and other small Greek islands.

Questions were raised when the vessel was acquired because it was already more than three decades old.

The recent decision by Transport Malta officials means the ship will make even less financial sense for Gozo Channel since the daily expense and running costs will be the same whether the vessel is operating at full or half capacity.

The Shift sent questions to Transport Malta spokesperson Daniel Balzan asking about the passenger count and whether it made sense to retain the MV Nikolaus, especially in the winter months and after the launch of the fast ferry service to Gozo, offering another option to those travelling across the islands.

Gozo Channel sources told The Shift that it seemed the government had not asked for a re-negotiation of the lease.

The government has resisted calls to publish the contract for the lease signed with the owners of the Greek vessel, turning down several Freedom of Information requests by The Shift.

Gozo Channel is running at a loss and is subsidised by taxpayers. It has been used and abused by those in government, burdening it with unnecessary employees as favours granted by ministers to constituents or through direct orders and contracts dished out to private entities providing services to the company.

Beyond that, since Labour candidate Joe Cordina has been at the helm, the company has embarked on a spending spree through the lease of a building in Mgarr, at significant cost to the company even though it cannot be used because it requires work before it can be converted into company offices.

The Shift revealed that this lease – the former Ta’ Miema supermarket – is owned by clients of Joe Cordina’s private auditing consultancy.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is also closing an eye to the fact that a Public Service Obligation contract that elapsed in 2017 has been pending without a new call.

The contract, used to pump state subsidies to Gozo Channel, was supposed to be issued five years ago. After the government’s attempt to give the lucrative contract to friends was stopped by the court, no new tender has been issued.

Although the European Commission has been putting pressure on the government to act, no infringement procedures have been started.

                           
                           
                               
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David
David
25 days ago

Shameful. Disgrace. Corrupt. Embarrassing.

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
24 days ago
Reply to  David

U ejja, come on! It’s not news anymore. As long as it’s not the PN Govt it’s OK.

makjavel
makjavel
25 days ago

This is another Konrad Mizzi type contract. Somebody is getting 30% of the amount being paid. The contract will never be cancelled or changed. The PN should put a motion in parlament to stop the contract. Then see who speaks against it.

Ivan Bartolo
Ivan Bartolo
25 days ago

I wonder who is taking these decisions. A four year old would do much better.

Last edited 25 days ago by Ivan Bartolo
Gordon Cook
Gordon Cook
23 days ago
Reply to  Ivan Bartolo

Direct order. The scourge of the last 3 governments

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
25 days ago

In the circumstances, the Piraeus-based owners will extremely gentleman-like consent to slashing the price of the ship’s lease by half.

So will the fuel contractor as regards the price of their supplies to the MV Nikolaus.

So also will the ship’s crew as regards their wages.

Dream on, Gahan!

isabelle farrugia
isabelle farrugia
25 days ago

The Nikolaus should be replaced as it is outdated & not convenient to use..money is being wasted down the drain with Nikolaus. we travel regularly to Gozo and this is the feeling

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
24 days ago

Carrying half capacity makes it safe…I presume, making me think like a fool!

Jason
Jason
25 days ago

Simple analysis without being politically biased. Everyday, Nikolaos operates for 12 hours, performing an average of 20 trips per day. Assuming that the ferry just transports passengers (which we all know it doesn’t) at €13k per day, Nikolaos needs to ferry 139 passengers per trip at the standard €4.65 fare for a Maltese passenger, quite far from the 300 passengers it carries today and well away from the 700 it was intended to carry when contracted… this always whilst not taking into account the fare paid for vehicles and those subsidised for Gozian ID card holders. Is the ferry old, yes, does the ferry take ages to load and unload yes… irrespective of, it is a given that the fourth ship is a must to maintain the current service.

Maria C. XUEREB
Maria C. XUEREB
24 days ago

Who s cat enter the Nicolaus either drive a steep shelf or you r at mercy of the men crew goes out last for the ones arrived last are allowed to be prefered and who comes first are left to the last to leave the dark not lighted enough deck need great attention.

J. Cus
J. Cus
23 days ago

What? Say again please.

Toni
Toni
24 days ago

More of the same…and people will just grumble and do nothing. We deserve what we get cause we’re a bunch of hypocrites

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
24 days ago
Reply to  Toni

No, people neither grumble nor complain. We got used to it.

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