Godwin Xerri / MMF

Godwin Xerri, Chairperson at the Malta Maritime Forum (MMF), has highlighted that a proposed sea connection linking the Freeport, Valletta, and Gozo would leave a positive impact on local businesses.

This comes after the MMF, the local entity representing the maritime industry, on Thursday recommended the introduction of a roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) service to transport cargo between the Malta Freeport and the Grand Harbour, to the Port of Mġarr in Gozo. It also suggested a possible stop-over in the north of Malta.

The MMF stated that such a service would help in the push towards decarbonisation and a reduction in traffic congestion, alleviating lines of heavy vehicles from Malta’s main roads.

Speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt about this proposal, Mr Xerri explained that Malta imports around 120,000 containers on average every year, which, once released from the Freeport, need to be delivered to different parts of the country.

“We believe that if there was a barging service by sea from the Freeport to Valletta and to Gozo, a good 50 per cent of this traffic would be taken off the roads or have their land transport footprint drastically reduced,” he said. Containers which are heading to central Malta are better reached through the Grand Harbour rather than the Freeport. Mr Xerri noted that in the case of containers destined for Gozo, “one is looking at saving a journey by road of 32 kilometres, which in terms of CO2 emissions is equivalent to seven kilogrammes.”

He noted that through studies conducted by the MMF, in 2022 there were around two million vehicles that travelled between Malta and Gozo. Should 30 per cent of this figure be loaded from the Freeport and Valletta, “Malta would save around two million kilogrammes of CO2, too high a figure to remain ignored.”

When asked how this proposal would impact businesses, Mr Xerri clarified that there is “no doubt” that this would leave a positive effect, particularly through quicker and cheaper travel.

“Such a connection would partially solve the congestion problem created by this same traffic during the rush hour in the morning when all the hauliers try to take release of their containers from the Freeport at 8am,” he explained.

He acknowledged that Malta Freeport Terminals has worked to resolve this bottleneck issue in the morning, together with the delays that stem from it, however, such a new sea connection would be a “huge relief for the commuter and for the businesses.”

The recommendation was made by the MMF after Transport Minister on Wednesday announced that there was a surge in the use of ferry services connecting the Cottonera area, Valletta, and Sliema during February 2024. The 64.9 per cent increase from the figures from February 2023 was primarily a result of the service becoming free to Tallinja card holders.

Mr Xerri explained that Malta needs to make better use of sea travel in order effectively transport passengers and vehicles. He remarked that people are ready to use these forms of transport if they “function well and are free of charge.”

“In this respect, we have to move out of our comfort zones and make use of the sea as a veritable means of transport,” he added.

Social image: Malta Freeport Terminals

Featured Image:

MMF Chairperson Godwin Xerri / MMF

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