Sea transport between Malta and Gozo has continued to recover in 2021, registering double-digit growth in the numbers of trips, passengers and vehicles, though it has yet to reach the figures recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the sector.
The number of trips went up by 9,401, or 32.4 per cent, when compared to 2020, to reach a total of 38,453. This is far higher than the 27,631 registered in 2019, the last year of regular tourism figured prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the 29,052 recorded in 2020.
Vehicle and passenger numbers are still recovering from the impact of COVID-19, registering increases of 11.3 per cent and 18 per cent respectively over the figures recorded in 2020.
However, the number of vehicles making the trip, at 1,727,629 is still lower than the 1,782,909 vehicles crossing the channel in 2019. The difference in the number of passengers is more prominent, with 4,451,692 persons crossing over to Gozo in 2021 as compared to 5,917,780 in 2019.
These figures now include journeys between Mġarr, Gozo and Valletta as part of the fast ferry service, which has recently come in for criticism.
One of the operators has meanwhile announced that a new ship is expected to be launched in mid-March 2020.
As is often the case, during 2021, August recorded the highest number of trips, passengers and vehicles, with 4,282, 560,178 and 189,183 respectively.
Turning to Q4 survey results, between October and December 2021, a total of 11,215 trips were carried out, carrying a total of 1,185,502 passengers. October was the busiest month recording a total of 3,832 trips or 34.2 per cent of total trips for the quarter.
A total of 1,066,788 passengers travelled between Mġarr and Ċirkewwa during the fourth quarter of 2021, an increase of 21.8 per cent when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The highest number of passengers was recorded in October – 392,221 or 36.8 per cent of the total for the quarter. When compared to the previous year, the number of vehicles increased by 10.0 per cent, totalling 429,806.
The number of trips during the fourth quarter amounted to 8,479, an increase of 4.8 per cent over the same period in 2020. December registered the highest number of trips – 2,860 or 33.7 per cent of total trips for the quarter.
During January-December 2021, both passenger and vehicle traffic originating from Ċirkewwa was busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other hand, from the Mġarr terminal, passenger and vehicle traffic was highest on Sundays and Mondays.
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Seat Load Factor also stood strong during the period, with an increase of 6.8% when compared to 2019