One of the controversial oil rigs in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, at Palumbo Shipyard, was removed on Tuesday, even as criticisms of the rigs have been decried as “unjust and unfair”.
The rigs, which resident’s groups have decried as an eyesore, were said to be removed by the end of April by Transport Minister Ian Borg.
In January, as reported by BusinessNow.mt, Dr Borg stated that after discussion with the rigs’ owners, who recognised the sensitivity and unique feature of the harbour, the rigs would be removed in an operation that would take several months.
In response, Malta Maritime Forum (MMF), on which Palumbo Shipyard’s General Manager Joseph Calleja sits as a board member, came out with a harshly worded statement warning against the removal of the rigs, which it said could, “by no stretch of the imagination” be deemed abandoned vessels or scrap metal.
“They are located legitimately within the confines of a private concession in full adherence to the conditions of emphyteutical agreement granted to the shipyard.
“Their lay up in Malta had been delayed due to depressed market conditions in the oil and gas industry which situation was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the forum insisted at the time.
However, in a video posted to the Times of Malta Facebook page on Tuesday morning, one of the two rigs at the Palumbo shipyard can be seen being towed out of the harbour.
Intervening in the issue after a referral by residents groups including Azzjoni: Tuna Artna Lura, the Ombudsman had said that the rigs had no right to be berthed at the port.
The second rig is set to be removed by the end of April.
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