A ferry boat branded Ragusa Xpress has been seen in a Maltese shipyard amid reports the supermarket tycoon Paul Gauci’s marina takeover plans include a new Sicily-to-Malta route.
Last week, news emerged that Gauci, founder of PG Group, which runs the PAMA and PAVI supermarkets, was leading a group of investors in finalising a deal to acquire the Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa.
Among plans to develop more commercial and residential real estate around the marina, this would also include a new catamaran link between Sicily and Malta.
A new route to the port of Ragusa would mean a new operator entering the market for ferry crossings to Sicily, with competitors Virtu Ferries making port at the municipality’s principal port in Pozzallo, only a 40-minute drive from the Ragusa marina.
The Ponte ferry service, which announced a pause in its operations to Sicily for the winter, previously docked in Augusta and was considered favourable due to its proximity to the city of Catania.
The Ragusa Xpress was first spotted in Malta yesterday, moored in a Marsa shipyard, having been painted white and branded with the yellow logo.
Times of Malta is informed that the vessel, now named San Giorgio, was previously owned by Virtu Ferries.
It was previously named San Ġwann and was sold to German ferry company FRS eight years ago.
It is understood that it was recently purchased from them by Gauci.
According to records in the Malta Business Registry, a company called Ragusa Xpress Limited was set up in 2017 and has had annual returns filed every year since then.
Gauci is listed as the director of this company while a company called PG Holdings Limited is listed as a sole shareholder. Gauci and his daughter, Claire Alexia Gauci, are the only listed shareholders of PG Holdings.
Described as a catamaran fast ferry, the vessel is around 50 metres long and can accommodate up to 18 small cars.
It is estimated to accommodate some 400 passengers in total.
Up until the summer of 2021, the San Ġwann was being used as a ferry boat between the two Balearic islands Ibiza and Formentera.
In August 2021, it ran aground on the islet known as Es Malvins, off the coast of Ibiza, resulting in 25 injuries, including a 10-year-old boy who had to be airlifted to hospital.
The catamaran was carrying 25 passengers and 12 crew members at the time.
It was successfully refloated two days later, on September 1, and towed to the port of Ibiza, where it remained for some time.
Questions sent to Paul Gauci were not answered by the time of publication.