21 27 March 2001
Safi aviation project drags on
Concern that work is being lost to Libya
By Ray Abdilla
Parties interested in the long-awaited aviation project earmarked for Safi may be asked to put forward their applications again for an aircraft hanger, according to the chairman of the Malta Development Corporation, Lawrence Zammit.
But although Mr Zammit expressed his hope that a decision could be taken about the dragged-out venture soon, interested parties are concerned that in the meantime, they are losing aviation maintenance business to Libya.
Mr Zammit told The Business Times that at the moment discussions are still being held on the subject of who will be responsible for the project. At one time it was in the hands of the MDC, but could now be handed over to the Malta International Airport.
"When the decision are finalised interested parties may be asked to submit a new application," he said. "But a decision about the whole issue could be taken soon."
Companies from Europe, the United States and South Africa, well connected in the aviation industry are still waiting to find out whether an aircraft maintenance and servicing company could be set up in Malta.
However time may be running out for them as the easing of the United Nations sanctions towards Libya means that much of the aviation maintenance work is taking place there.
The Business Times was informed that one of the interested parties in the project - Aviation Consultants Ltd which, together with the Russian company Aeroflot, has been waiting in the wings for some time, is still interested in the business venture.
Together with Buchova, a Russian-owned government company, the company had put forward its application during the Labour administration around two years ago.
Sources told The Business Times that things were moving slowly then and still are under the new Nationalist administration.
Anthony Mario Vella from Aviation Consultants Ltd told The Business Times that their application, which has been put forward to the MDC, also includes the setting up of a school for pilots for students coming to Malta from South Africa. He complained that finalisation of the project was taking too long, adding that he would like to see more commitment from the government in a project that could be healthy financially and economically and would provide employment for around 100 people.
"I do not know why everything seems frozen," he said. "Do we want productive work in this country or not? I had already dealt with Prefed Industria of Italy regarding the building of a hanger at Safi.
The last I heard from the MDC was that there is another company who would like some space at Safi (in the vicinity of the project itself) and when they decide on that space they will issue the piece of land."
If the project takes off, it would not only concentrate on small planes, but also on large passenger and cargo planes such as Boeing and Airbus. The project would be located in Hal-Safi, exactly next to the airfield.
The exact site of location when such a project is finalised will be the hanger were the Malta International Aviation Centre is situated. The land is the possession of the Armed Forces of Malta. The AFM were not against giving this piece of land to the project, since they felt they could have benefited from the venture as well.
When and if the project takes off it will not only concentrate on small planes but also on large passenger and cargo planes such as Boeing and Airbus.
Inaugurating a new Airport Information Management System some time ago, Minister for Economic Services, Josef Bonnici, had said that a number of foreign investors were interested in operating in Malta in the aviation sector as they see Malta as a hub for Europe and the Mediterranean. Prof. Bonnici had said that the government was looking for a project linked to aeroplane repairs.
A meeting with the new MDC Chairman is expected to take place soon between the parties involved.