Gozo Channel is to retain the recently-chartered fourth ferry until a fresh call for tender for a replacement is decided, Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana has announced.

The MV Nikolaus was initially chartered along with its crew for six months to supplement the three Gozo Channel ferries. It arrived in June.

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"The fourth ferry is here to stay," Dr Caruana said, observing that the four ferries had, over the Santa Marija week, carried more passengers and cars more efficiently, with negligible queues in the harbours.

The ferries handled 221,088 passengers and 61,328 vehicles during Sta Marija week, operating 904 trips in a shuttle service. This marked an increase of 5% in passengers and 15% in vehicles compared to last year.

Dr Caruana thanked all those who had helped make the visitors’ experience an enjoyable one, including those who had held a number of activities all over Gozo.

As part of a ministry drive to encourage more sustainable forms of transport, drivers of electric vehicles were given free ferry tickets.