Ponte Ferries stated that it has been forced to delay the launch of her ferry service to Sicily due to a last-minute legal challenge with Sicilian authorities by “a competing operator”, which objected to her use of the Augusta Port. Virtu Ferries, which has been operating a Malta-Sicily service for the past 30 years, responded immediately to Ponte’s claim, declaring that it had made “no such challenge” and issued the below Press Release.
In order to start operating a ferry service with any of the Italian ports, a prospective operator must first apply to the relevant port authority for a concession and the grant of berthing facilities, as well as satisfy other requirements, including maritime permits for the vessel used and if am not mistaken No High Speed Craft is allowed to operate to Italy with stern flap opened (curtain style). Ponte Ferries started the long application process only last May following which the Italian port authorities published the application and called for comments in June.
Although the application was still being processed Ponte Ferries announced in June that the company would start ferry services to Augusta on August 6, and immediately started selling tickets.
On Thursday 5th August ramp works at Wine Wharf, in Grand Harbour were still ongoing with even the Bezzina Maritime Services Crane Barge BEZZ V on site as per below images –
These ramps were installed –
To assist customers who have booked ferry trips in the coming days, Ponte Ferries said that it has chartered an aircraft and will also provide them with a free voucher for car rental. Alternatively, they can claim an instant refund and will, in addition, be given a voucher to use the service for free over the next 12 months. A spokesman for Ponte said: “We apologise to our customers first and foremost for the huge disappointment this development will inevitably cause. We know how important their holidays are and are doing everything we can to make it up to them while we work round the clock to resolve this issue.
Later on in the afternoon of Thursday 5th August HSC ARTEMIS was seen conducting trials within territorial waters (wtw) and upon completion she entered again, berthing at Pinto 3 Wharf, part of Valletta Cruise Port.
“Ponte’s objective from the start has been to offer an alternative ferry service to Sicily for customers who want value and a choice of operators, and we remain committed to fulfilling our mission.” The offer of chartered flights to those who have reserved tickets will run till Friday, August 13. Customers who have booked trips after this date will be offered a full refund and an additional voucher to travel for free over the next 12 months. “We will be keeping our customers and the public informed of developments and are confident that our service will be fully operational within weeks,” the spokesman said.
Evacuation Drill back to 14th May, 2021
On Friday 6th August at 0927 hrs HSC ARTEMIS left Valletta bound to Augusta, Sicily to berth at the Commercial Port ( At the time of writing she’s still there )
Watermarked Photos are by Capt. Lawrence Dalli otherwise stated. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com
Published – Wednesday 11th August ,2021