A plan to give out the site of a former shipbuilding yard at Marsa for development as a maritime hub fits perfectly well with the work that has been going on for some years to revive maritime trade. It is also important in the context of the Grand Harbour regeneration plan.
Malta has one of the finest freeports in the Mediterranean and the cruise liner business is picking up fast too, generating new revenue through inter-related trade spin-offs. The island has one of the largest ship registers in the world and the complementary maritime services that are taking shape today should help make the maritime sector increasingly important.
There is much that has yet to be done, even in and around Grand Harbour, a prime asset and a jewel in Malta’s crown. Now that the bulk of the sea trade has moved to Marsaxlokk, Grand Harbour is taking a new role. Valletta Waterfront has completely transformed that part of the harbour, making it an attraction in its own right.
It is also serving a most useful purpose as base for cruise liners, giving thousands of cruise passengers a first-class image of the island.
It is now the turn of the site formerly occupied by Malta Shipbuilding that is in line for development. An international call for expressions of interest to convert the site into a maritime hub has just been issued, opening another harbour lung for new commercial activity. The closing date for submissions is August 5.
The aim is to have the site developed as a centre that would offer support services in ship management as well as in agency, finance insurance and maritime legal and arbitration services. As the plans stand, the company winning the tender would have to run the operation on its own or, maybe, as a consortium.
It is too early to say what are the likely prospects but, if the idea is well marketed, the island could perhaps attract a first-class operator that would be able to make a success of the venture. The island is well suited for the expansion of maritime services as the development of the transhipment port in Marsaxlokk shows only too well.
In a way, Marsaxlokk is re-activating part of the role the island played, for a time, before the opening of the Suez Canal when it also served as an important transhipment centre.
There were times too when the island served as a coaling station for steamers and, at one time, it also used to be called the warehouse of the Mediterranean.
For one reason or another, including competition from ports in North Africa, much of the trade had declined over the years but now Malta is set to give the maritime trade a new lease of life.
Source: Times of Malta
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