Gozo harbour

Users of the fast ferry service between Mġarr, Gozo and Valletta can look forward to new investment in the route, as operator Virtu Ferries has announced the purchase of a new 42.2 metre ferry to replace one of the ageing vessels currently in use.

On Wednesday, Virtu released a statement saying that the HSC Gozo Express will start operating from mid-March 2022, following a €7 million investment.

“This indicates Virtu’s commitment to the Gozo route,” the company said.

The commitment will be welcomed after the operator along with its competitor, the Bianchi Group and Merill Investments-owned Gozo Fast Ferry, came in for criticism for an unreliable and inconvenient schedule.

Earlier this week, BusinessNow.mt highlighted concerns that the service is not meeting users’ needs and undermining their trust. For example, between 16:45 and 19:15 – peak hours for people returning home from work – there are no ferries scheduled for the entirety of January.

Gozo Business Chamber CEO Daniel Borg said, “Users need to feel confident that the service is there when they need it.”

The new ferry will be registered under the Malta flag and was designed by the Australian high speed ferry designers Incat Crowther.

The HSC Gozo Express has an overall length of 42.2 metres, with a carrying capacity of 322 passengers, in airconditioned lounges on two decks and outside seating for 40 passengers on the upper deck.

The HSC Gozo Express is powered by four MTU 12V2000 M72 engines and four Rolls Royce water jets and is capable of a maximum speed of more than 38 knots, and a service speed of 35 knots.

It will be replacing the SES San Pawl, built in 1991 by Brodrene Aa, which will be redeployed on the company’s Venice to Croatia route under the banner of Venezia Lines. The SES San Pawl has an overall length of 35 metres, with a capacity of 310 passengers.

Virtu Ferries said that the HSC Gozo Express successfully completed sea trials in December 2021 and is expected to be delivered to Virtu Ferries by mid-March 2022.

It will operate alongside the SES San Franġisk, a sister ship to the SES San Pawl built in 1989.

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