Updated 6.10pm with Virtu Ferries statement

Ponte Ferries said on Thursday it has been forced to delay the launch of its ferry service to Sicily due to a last-minute legal challenge with Sicilian authorities by "a competing operator", which objected to its use of the Augusta Port. 

It said in a statement it had been ready to start its service from Friday but cannot proceed as planned after another "competing operator", which does not travel to the Augusta port, submitted a contestation at the eleventh hour against Ponte’s use of the berthing area for which it had applied in November. 

In their statement, Ponte said that to assist customers who have booked ferry trips in the coming days, it has chartered an aircraft and will also provide them with a free voucher for car rental.

Alternatively, they can claim an instant refund and will, in addition, be given a voucher to use the service for free over the next 12 months. 

A spokesman for Ponte said: “We apologise to our customers first and foremost for the huge disappointment this development will inevitably cause. We know how important their holidays are and are doing everything we can to make it up to them while we work round the clock to resolve this issue.

“Ponte’s objective from the start has been to offer an alternative ferry service to Sicily for customers who want value and a choice of operators, and we remain committed to fulfilling our mission.”

The offer of chartered flights to those who have reserved tickets will run until August 13. Customers who have booked trips after this date will be offered a full refund and an additional voucher to travel for free over the next 12 months. 

“We will be keeping our customers and the public informed of developments and are confident that our service will be fully operational within weeks,” the spokesman said.

Ponte has set up a helpline for customers, who may call 2799 8989 for assistance with their bookings, refunds and vouchers or e-mail reservations@ponteferries.com 

It wasn't us - Virtu

Competitor Virtu Ferries, (which Ponte did not identify) hit back at the claim later saying that it had not, as was being claimed, filed any legal challenges.

"Virtu Ferries made no such, or indeed any other, challenge."

It said that like Ponte Ferries, it had applied for berthing facilities at Augusta but unlike its competitor, it refrained from selling tickets for this route, and would not be selling such tickets, until its permit was approved.

"In contrast, our competitors have, since 23rd June, been selling tickets to the public in the knowledge that they were not in a position to guarantee the service they were selling," Virtu said.

It added that it was this conduct that caused their latest predicament and their clients’ distress and delusion.  


Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.