Fortina’s plans to take a piece of St Julian’s Bay for its ferry business has drawn stinging criticism for the town Mayor, warning that the area could turn into Sliema Creek, a massive stretch of coast overwhelmingly occupied by ticket booths and vessels owned by the company
“Let us not be deluded into thinking there will ever be some form of enforcement of emissions/pollution from ferries. We will end up like Sliema Creek. There has NEVER been any enforcement anywhere,” Buttigieg said.
While stressing that ferry transport may be a good idea, Buttigieg was dismayed that the proposal was in one of the few remaining swimming spots in the bay.
“The public is always losing out – this means the commercialisation of the bay,” he said.
The application, as noted in a previous Lovin Malta article, goes against the area’s local plan, which identifies the area as public domain, much higher protection status that land deemed to be public property.
The only way a public domain can be declassified is through parliamentary resolution, something which is yet to take place, as noted by MP Jason Azzopardi.
“The Local Plan Policy regarding NHRL04 Yachting and Berthing Facilities identifies only two potential sites for new Yacht Marinas; i.e., i. Pieta` Creek; and ii. Sliema Creek. Balluta Bay is not included,” Buttigieg explained.
Beyond this, the area is also rife with Posidonia beds, which are protected by law.
The proposal, Buttigieg claimed, doesn’t even have an approved permit from the Maritime Authority, as required.
Ultimately, he said, the application looks to “slide in a hugely intense operation of constant ferry service”.
“This is not respectful of the public’s right to be informed and to the public’s continued and free enjoyment of a popular bathing spot – a right which is constantly being eroded by commercial applications,” he said.
The Fortel Group’s application looks to build a new jetty for a hop-on-hop-off maritime service, similar to their hop-on-hop-off bus concept.
The group currently runs the massively successful Captain Morgan cruises, whose ticket booths and berthing points already take up sizeable portions of the Sliema ferries promenade.
Fortel has had its luck of the green in recent years, with the Fortina Hotel controversially changing its lease on a massive tract of land from solely tourism to a mixed-use development with the blessing and approval of Malta’s ruling party.
They also have plans to extend some 180 square meters into Malta’s water to grow their shoreside Fortina Lido.
The Zammit Tabonas were also a crucial part of the proposed fast-ferry service between Malta and Gozo, which was shot down by the Public Contracts Review Board because of irregularities.
Ruth Trapani Galea, a member of the Zammit Tabona family, also forms part of the group set to transfer an old military hospital in Mtarfa into an international school, one the latest state-owned public assets that were siphoned off to a private company.
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