Over 700 passengers were left stranded out at sea for more than two hours last Saturday 30th April due to a delay in re opening the Grand Harbour following a fireworks show. The delay was caused by a setback in the clearing of barges and lighters used for the fireworks display, which marked the finale of the International Fireworks festival.
The Ports & Yachting Directorate Department of Transport Malta issued Notice to Mariners ( No 041 and 045 of 2022 ) that notified mariners and owners of vessels that the harbour will be closed from 1500 hrs to 2250 hrs except for authorised vessels.
By 1500 hrs the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) P 24 was inside Grand Harbour controlling all commercial traffic assisted by Transport Malta Law Enforcement ribs. After few minutes a sailing yacht SEZEL from Malta Sail Charters requested to go inside Kalkara for few minutes with regarding to permission from Deputy Harbour Master, the radio officer of P 24 replied that the port now is managed by the AFM not Transport Malta so permission was denied. At 1715 hrs she entered Grand Harbour after a permission was granted and left again at 1754 hrs.
Also at one time P 24 didn’t let a workboat of Polaris Marine Services to shift from Boiler Wharf to Marsamxett Harbour in order to give conveyance service to a ship in our territorial waters,
At times P 24 was interfering with VTS Communications on VHF Ch 12 instead of switching another VHF Channel and discuss issues with other boats of which VTS notified P 24 regarding the matter.
The Catamaran Service Operator VIRTU FERRIES had informed all commuters of a scheduled 1 hour delay of which in fact she left Pozzallo, Sicily at 2130 hrs instead of 2030 hrs but once she was approaching she received instructions to await near the fairway buoy until the Harbour is open.
Commercial & Passenger Ships/Short sea Ferry Boats were seen leaving the harbour from 2252 hrs such as FISHINGCAT VALENTINA at 2252 hrs; KEPPEL at 2257 hrs; ELLA ROSE at 2302 hrs, JADE at 2304 hrs; HERA II at 2306 hrs, SEA ADVENTURE at 2108 hrs; FERNANDES II at 2312 hrs.
At 0137 hrs of Sunday 1st May, 2022 JEAN DE LA VALETTE passed breakwaters to berth and start disembarking/offloading operations at DWQ 5 with approx 3 hours delay.
According to Transport Malta the problem was caused by a delay in the clearing of barges and lighters (Malta Tourism Authority is responsible for the clearing of the barges) from the fairway BUT if vessels are allowed to go out, PASSENGERS Have PRIORITY and can come in.
This is the same story when REGATTA take place…..CRUISE LINERS are allowed to enter or leave port when the buoys still will be attached to the moorings !!!
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Published – Tuesday 3rd May, 2022.