Virtu' Ferries has expressed its disappointment that Gozo Channel did not accept its bid to operate a fast ferry service between Malta and Gozo, and instead chose a company which it said was set up a week ago by people having no experience in the sector.

Gozo Channel said on Saturday it had selected Islands Ferry Network, which is made up of Magro Brothers Investments Ltd and Fortina Investments Ltd.

In a statement on Saturday, Gozo Channel said it had received seven offers for the service after a call for offers last February.

In a statement, Virtu explained that according to Gozo Channel’s call for a partner company to operate the new service, the partner company was obliged to have “the necessary experience, expertise or resources to provide a fast ferry service” and it was expected “to meet the applicable specifications,
requirements and criteria applicable for the fast ferry service as required by the tender”.

The tender required the operator to have five years experience in ferry operation, and a minimum of 10 million euro in turnover. Thus, the successful candidate had to be an existing and well-established local or foreign
high speed ferry operator. 

Virtu Ferries said it submitted an offer to Gozo Channel in full compliance of both the requirements dictated by Gozo Channel, and the requirements of the main
EU wide tender, also as dictated by Gozo Channel.

But on Friday it was informed by Gozo Channel that its offer was

It transpired that Gozo Channel had chosen as a partner 'a new company
that was set up on the 10th April 2018 barely one week ago, with shareholders having no prior ferry-owning and certainly no experience in high speed ferry operations as specifically dictated by the tender.'

It is hugely regrettable that Gozo Channel will allow the operation of a 350 to 400 passenger high speed ferry to an operator with no prior experience at all...

"It is being submitted that it is highly irresponsible of Gozo Channel to award a contract of this magnitude both in terms of its fundamental importance as a life line to the peripheral island of Gozo with the Maltese mainland as well as in terms of its substantial value which will be partly financed by public funds, to a new company that as yet does not even have the basic required international and Flag State certification to operate high speed ferries, let alone the five years
experience to do so as required under the tender," the company said.

"It is hugely regrettable that Gozo Channel will allow the operation of a 350 to 400 passenger high speed ferry to an operator with no prior experience at all in the shipping sector. This leads to the question as to why a seasoned Ferry operator like Gozo Channel require a partner at all if not for the required experience in high speed ferry operations, with the necessary certification and financial standing as required under the PSC and as stated in Gozo Channel’s own request for a partner, and which the successful bidders new company
cannot provide."

Ironically, Virtu said, in view of its own 30 years experience in high speed ferry ownership, it was recently given the go ahead by the Italian authorities to operate sea passenger domestic routes from La Spezia to Cinque Terre, in Northern Italy. It has been operating routes in the Adriatic Sea to Venice for the last 15 years, and between Morocco and Spain for the last six years.

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