All of Transport Malta sea enforcement across the Maltese islands is being conducted by one boat as six others remain unusable despite a €1.2 million investment in their repair, the Opposition said on Monday.
The statement said that despite the costly repairs of five rigid-hulled inflatable boats ER1 through to ER5, the boats have been kept in on-shore storage, alongside a defective older boat, ER11, due to incompatibilities with the original tender for their purchase.
Last month, The Shift revealed that all five boats originally purchased in 2021 had developed structural issues, with one found to be completely unseaworthy. Following the report, the opposition called for an independent internal investigation into the issue.
The statement, penned by Opposition spokesperson for maritime affairs Ivan Castillo, claimed that Transport Malta’s 18 sea enforcement officers are now forced to use a singular older boat as apart from the five new RHIBs’ unseaworthiness, another older boat was also found to be defective.
Castillo also said that the two older boats, ER8 and ER11, were operating without proper licensing and registration, putting a name to the unregistered vessels operated by Transport Malta revealed by The Shift a month ago.
The statement also called for the ongoing Auditor General investigation into the matter to look into the original tender for the boats, saying it was issued three separate times and cancelled twice over until the desired bidder could be approved.
Castillo claimed the boats were purchased in 2021 for €900,000 under the watch of then-Transport Minister Ian Borg. The Shift is informed they were supplied by an importer from Rabat, Borg’s electoral district and had to be refitted since they were not up to Transport Malta’s standards, which significantly increased their price tag.
Less than two years later, technical reports shown to The Shift last June by Transport Malta enforcement officers who spoke out on condition of anonymity stated “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.”
“Similar instances of damage are being noted on ER2 (another RHIB). Continued use of this unit will inevitably lead to the same degree of damages seen on ER1,” the report continued. Problems were also noted on the other RHIBs, according to the surveyor.
The opposition statement on Monday said the government should be held responsible to ensure the situation is remedied quickly, calling for sea enforcement to be more than “a mere public relations exercise”.