A new hop-on-hop-off ferry service servicing Balluta Bay will start operating this summer, Fortina Investments announced on Monday.
The ferry will operate between Sliema Ferries, Balluta Bay, Buġibba and Comino. It will initially pick up passengers from Balluta up to eight times a day, with new vessels replacing the company’s traditional Captain Morgan tour business.
The announcement came after Times of Malta reported last week that the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal had refused to suspend the permit until a decision on the appeal is handed down.
More than 80 residents, four environment NGOs and the St Julian’s local council are all opposed to the ferry plans and have appealed the decision to allow the ferry operators to build a private jetty at the popular St Julian’s Bay.
Among the objectors are NGOs Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Green House and Moviment Graffitti, which had also sought to be given permission to manage Balluta Bay, pledging to keep it free of any commercial venture.
The project, which will effectively privatise a section of the public bay, was approved by the Planning Authority on March 2. The approved plans will allow Fortina Investments Ltd to build a jetty which it will use for tourist ferries. The company owns Captain Morgan Cruises and has also won a tender to operate a Malta-Comino ferry.
Fortina has fought back against what it said is “false information” about its plans, saying that its ferries will not enter swimming zones and that no ticket booths will be set up along the Sliema promenade.
“This misinformation campaign has only served to muddy the waters and prevent people from seeing this service for what it really is – a bus stop at sea that will board and disembark passengers at a temporary landing berth that is already populated by numerous pleasure craft,” a company spokesperson said.
Moreover, the floating landing place at San Gilian ASC is temporary – 10.5m x 5m in size, resting on four legs on the undisturbed seabed and anchored to the existing quay – and a nature monitoring condition report will be undertaken throughout the next five years to ensure that all seabed conditions remain intact, it said.
The company did not provide a specific date when the service would begin operating.