The Malta Maritime Forum said that the organisation of the traditional regatta on 31 March is the latest challenge that will continue to undermine the recovery of the cruise industry.
The MMF said that among its recommendations during the present electoral campaign was a call for the present and future incoming Administration to give the Maritime Industry its due importance, duly recognising the fact that Malta is constantly competing in a global village. In this context, the MMF requested a new government to recognise the economic contribution of the maritime industry and “Offer its full, unrelenting and actual backing to local and foreign investors”.
The MMF made this call in its electoral proposals because time and again, over the past years, it was required to intervene in matters where the interests of its members needed safeguarding. Such instances created significant operational hardship, reputational risk and financial costs to a number of its members. Regretfully, the MMF is currently facing yet another similar circumstance brought about by decisions being taken with regards to activities in the Grand Harbour, more specifically the forthcoming Regatta races planned for the 31st March and a related communication received from Transport Malta obliging operators to vacate Pinto 4 and 5 and to clear the sea lane.
This development is most unwelcome to the MMF and its directly affected members particularly in such a sensitive period on which all the hopes of the cruise industry were pinned for some recovery and normality from the COVID pandemic.
Two important cruise ship calls are expected for the date in question – the bookings for which have been confirmed since 2019. Beyond the short-term additional costs, the industry is most concerned with the reputational damage that this unwelcome development will bring about. After a very hard two years characterised by COVID with local Health protocols still lagging behind other ports and a two-year-old notice to Mariners still in force, besides other hardships, the industry and its investors expect more sensitive treatment. Giving the impression that Cruise bookings can be changed around without due notice is not conducive to giving “unrelenting and actual backing to local and foreign investors” as referred to above. Additionally, advising the Cruise Line that priority is being given to traditional sea races in the port may sound rather frivolous and unprofessional with grave consequences including changes in itinerary and future cancellations.
Of course, the MMF is not requesting the cancellation of the Regatta. In fact, it believes that the races may still go ahead without the need to shift the cruise vessels to Boiler Wharf thereby avoiding any negative impact on the Cruise Industry.
For this reason, the MMF requests the Authorities to give due consideration to this decision and to organize a meeting in order to find a plausible solution in a manner which respects traditional festivities but also the interests legitimate rights of the private, foreign investor whilst safeguarding the economic interests of the country and its people.