Objectors to a new hop-on-hop-off ferry service at Balluta Bay have promised to pursue all legal avenues to stop the project which would ruin a top bathing zone in the area.
Moviment Graffiti, which is leading the objections in conjunction with the St Julian’s council, said in a statement it will “pursue further legal action to stop you hogging our seas".
The statement was issued in reply to a statement issued by the Fortina Group on Monday in which it said that its ferry service will start operating this summer, insisting that all it was creating at Balluta Bay was a “temporary and reversible bus stop at sea”.
The group said 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 87 objectors including four environment NGOs and the St Julian’s 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.
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.
The objectors described the operator’s statement as “greenwash”. They added that even though the project was being passed off as a temporary, minimally-disruptive development, the word "temporary" was not mentioned once in the approved application.
“The entire bay from Balluta Bay right past the St Julian's waterpolo pitch is an official bathing zone where members of the public may swim, kayak, dive and engage in different watersports.
"The much smaller roped-off swimming zones within the official bathing zone are there to exclude jet skis and other vessels. It does not mean that all swimmers have to be confined to those small areas. We are not tuna fish to be restricted to pens," the objectors said.
The tourist-ferry service was announced by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at an event in October 2019 well before the permits were ever issued, showing another done deal even though the public objected in droves, they said.
The objectors continued that the developer group's record speaks for itself.
"It is the same group which has littered the Sliema Ferries with cheap and unsightly ticket booths. It is the same group which was granted a public seafront site for touristic purposes - which was then converted to a residential speculative project." The objectors also claimed that members of the same group “had a business relationship with the Lands Authority CEO”.
Earlier this month, Times of Malta reported how the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal had refused to suspend the permit until a decision on the appeal is handed down.