Vessels ferrying people between Valletta and Gozo have started using a second berthing spot in Mġarr, after one of the operators faced challenges and delays on its first few days of operation.

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg told the press on Friday that the berthing space had been allocated through an agreement with Gozo Channel.

Multiple trips by the Gozo Fast Ferry were cancelled or ran late earlier this week as the company dealt with "teething problems" and "logistical challenges".

The service was launched on Tuesday but by Wednesday Gozo Fast Ferry passengers were already complaining about delays, with customers saying the trip from Mgarr to Valletta, which is supposed to take 45 minutes, lasted up to one hour and 45 minutes. Complaints continued on Thursday.

Another operator, Virtu Ferries, also serves the Valletta - Mġarr route. 

Asked whether the authorities were considering a second quay so that operators will be able to better serve passengers, Borg said operators knew that Infrastructure Malta would be building two quays, one on each landing site.

“That being said, thanks to an agreement reached with Gozo Channel there is already a second landing spot in Gozo that can be used by operators between 5.30am and 7.30pm, so with little effort and better use of space there are an additional 80 metres for fast ferry operators to use.”

He added that the government had meanwhile submitted a planning application for a third berthing site in Ta' Liese, near the Department of Fisheries. 

“There were some initial difficulties but I’m told that today all vessels were able to keep to their schedule,” he said. 

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Asked why the X300 bus, serving the Ċirkewwa - University of Malta route, had been moved to the capital, and was now serving a Valletta fast ferry terminal - University of Malta route, Borg said that the route had been created by Malta Public Transport, a private company. The government had no regulatory input over the route. 

“In line with wanting to reduce cars on the road  between Ċirkewwa and Valletta, we also want to reduce bus traffic from this route," he said.

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri meanwhile said that the feedback from fast ferry users had been overwhelmingly positive, adding that the Gozo Ministry had subsidised trips for Gozitan students by providing them with €166 a month to cover their transport needs. 

The ministers were speaking to the press following a press conference about IM reconstruction works on a 100-metre Ċirkewwa quay which will serve as a second mooring location for Gozo Channel vessels. 

€1.6 million quay upgrade

The works, which cost some €1.6 million, saw the quay get a major upgrade with a new redesigned deck, new fender blocks and safety walls as well as extensive repairs on the subsea foundations. 

The new deck measures 2,320 square metres and has been elevated to reduce the impact of waves overtopping the deck during rough weather conditions. 

More than 4,000 tonnes of reinforced concrete went into the structure, with the use of special marine concrete to reduce the risk of cracking and water ingress, which would cause it to deteriorate faster. 

The new quay will be managed by Transport Malta and the Gozo Channel Company Ltd to run the Ċirkewwa-Mġarr route and is set to become operational in the coming months. 

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