Farsons Group CEO Norman Aquilina

In a candid social media address to the challenges facing Malta’s economic landscape, Farsons CEO Norman Aquilina has emphasised the critical need for reform in the nation’s ports to enhance competitiveness. Making his comments on LinkedIn, Mr Aquilina highlighted the pressing issues that hinder Malta’s economic efficiency and proposed solutions to address them.

“Against a backdrop of elevated inflation along with a resultant cost-of-living squeeze, we need to keep in perspective that not only do we operate from an island economy, and therefore unavoidably incur shipping costs, but are also subject to high local port/clearance and related charges,” Mr Aquilina stated. He pointed out that the expenses of transporting containers from Malta’s ports to warehouses often exceed the freight costs from mainland Europe to Malta itself, a reality that resonates with many importers.

As CEO of Farsons, which imports a wide range of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages apart from manufacturing its own beverages, Mr Aquilina’s is well versed on the operations of Malta’s freeport.

Further, Mr Aquilina underscored external factors exacerbating Malta’s logistical challenges, including the EU’s shipping emissions tax and instability in the Red Sea, which further compound the complexity and costliness of operations.

“To somewhat alleviate the situation, we need ports that enhance efficiency and are more conducive to today’s working environment, putting an end to outdated ‘regulated’ working practices,” Mr Aquilina remarked. He stressed the importance of restructuring port operations to reduce costs and improve overall competitiveness.

Reflecting on past attempts at port reform, Mr Aquilina acknowledged the shortcomings of previous efforts, emphasising the need for policymakers to address present competitive realities. “With our policymakers seemingly oblivious to today’s competitive realities, we can no longer treat our ports and related practices as untouchable,” he remarked. Mr Aquilina called for a renewed commitment to port reform, expressing hope that this time, perseverance would lead to tangible results.

Indeed, Mr Aquilina’s insights shed light on the imperative for decisive action in reforming Malta’s ports. As the island navigates economic challenges, addressing logistical inefficiencies, in his view, emerges as a pivotal step towards bolstering competitiveness and ensuring sustainable growth.

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