Thursday, 12 March 2009

The end of the Gozo Channel Monopoly

The Malta Government should not once again lose the opportunity, as happened in the past, to apply for funds from the European Union through the Marco Polo Program. Applications for this funding opened again on the 10th of February this year. These funds would help the Company, awarded the tender, to expand the transport of all merchandise from San Maison as well as from the Freeport, to Mgarr port and vice-versa. Thus pollution, transport costs, road damage and traffic jams now resulting from the overland carriage of goods by huge lorries will be substantially reduced.

This is also the year when Gozo Channel's monopoly of the public sea transport to and from Gozo has to come to an end. We at Alternattiva Demokratika therefore strongly recommend to the Minister concerned that instead of keeping the matter under the carpet, a number of factors must be considered.

Firstly, the future of the existing 240 employees of Gozo Channel must be safeguarded. It is most unfair that after these workers were used as a vote-catching exercise in previous Elections by both the Labour and Nationalist governments, they are now being kept in the dark with regards to their future. The Union representing these workers must be proactive in this regard.

Secondly, the government must not forget that the Gozo Channel provides a vital 'life-line' for Gozo. Therefore the Gozo Channel service must not be looked upon simply as a business venture but as a public service. The needs of Gozitan workers and students in Malta must remain one of its top priorities even when considering tariffs and schedules.

Thirdly, a clause should be included, in the new tender, binding the successful applicant to reduce to a minimum the pollution and energy consumption levels by the ships providing the service.

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