One of the five new RHIBs Transport Malta purchased for its maritime enforcement section has already been declared to no longer be seaworthy and needs to be scrapped, while the other four were found to have developed serious structural problems.
But despite technical reports on the state of the vessels having sounded alarm bells, Transport Malta is still using them for its enforcement patrols.
Transport Malta enforcement officers who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity said that both Minister Aaron Farrugia and Transport Malta CEO Jonathan Borg were made aware of these problems a long time ago but to no avail.
Farrugia and Borg were also informed that some of the RHIBs were also operating for months with expired licences and registration.
Transport Malta fines boat owners without valid licences and registration with €250 fines.
The issue was also highlighted publicly by independent politician Arnold Cassola.
The so-called investment was made by Minister Ian Borg in July 2021 when he was responsible for Transport Malta. He boasted at the time how the government had spent €500,000 on the seacraft.
The Shift is informed they were supplied by an importer from Rabat, Borg’s electoral district and that they had to be refitted since they were not up to Transport Malta’s standards, which significantly increased their price tag.
But during an inspection just a year later by a surveyor from a private company, structural damage was found on two of the boats that rendered two of them unusable.
“The extent of damage seen on ER1 (one of the RHIBs) is deemed to be major,” the surveyor concluded.
“It is strongly advised for ER1 to be placed out of service. The craft’s primary hull structure has been heavily compromised and is no longer deemed seaworthy,” the damning report found.
“Similar instances of damage are being noted on ER2 (another RHIB), the expert reported.
“Continued use of this unit will inevitably lead to the same degree of damages seen on ER1,” it was noted.
According to the surveyor, ER2 was to be used in a limited fashion and only in good weather.
Problems were also noted on all the other RHIBs.
Asked to state who would take responsibility for the gross failure and whether Transport Malta would be instituting legal action against the supplier to recoup damages, both Transport Malta CEO Jonathan Borg and Minister Farrugia have refused to reply. Asked to confirm that the boats were being used with expired registration, they remained similarly tight-lipped.
The damaged RHIBs were recently used as a background for a press conference given by Minister Farrugia to launch Transport Malta’s annual ‘safety at sea’ campaign.