The government issued a new request for proposals for the provision of a fast ferry service between Gozo and Grand Harbour rather than extend the closing date for the one that closed yesterday.

The original tender was originally meant to close in July 2017 but was extended to January 31, 2018. The new tender, which appears to have the same major terms, closes on April 26.

It was already clear four weeks ago it might be hard to find a bidder by the deadline set since the provider of the new fast ferry service to Gozo would have to take over the traditional channel crossing too, in practice meaning the best-placed contender would be Gozo Channel, industry sources said.

The fast ferry service is to be operated by a 350-passenger catamaran and Gozo Channel last May issued an invitation to find a partner.

The justification for linking the two services centred around the use of MÄ¡arr harbour by competing operators, according to the Transport Ministry. It told the Times of Malta four week ago that “given the scale and specificities of the local market we will have to see whether the market can positively respond to this requirement”.

It said one still had to see whether more time would be needed “to solicit market interest in this area given the scale and specificities” involved.

When contacted yesterday, the Transport Ministry explained that a new RFP had to be issued as some of the changes were substantial, saying that it stressed the need for high environmental standards of operations.

“It [also] continues to focus on the need to have appropriate commuter information systems and more streamlined flows at the terminals. Moreover, bidders continue to be encouraged to put forward proposals for services that may be provided beyond those offered under the Public Service Obligation contract.”

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