Talk must become action if Drydocks
is to be saved
The best way to save Malta Drydocks from a bleak future is to stop postponing
difficult decisions, face reality and act promptly.
These were the no-nonsense words of the yards chairman,
John Cassar White, when speaking yesterday to The Malta Financial and
Much has been made of the fact that there is not full agreement on various
aspects of the restructuring plan for Malta Drydocks, which was handed
in to Cabinet last week. There has also been scepticism as to whether
targets laid out in the plan, drawn up by a task force specifically
set up to deal with this sensitive sector, can be reached.
Mr Cassar White admitted there are "no guarantees" in what
he described as "this risky business", but implied that it
was a change in mentality that could make or break the yards
"Our targets are not unrealistic unless we assume that the best
we can achieve is mediocrity," he said.
In the plan, there were projections that the workforce would be cut
by 50% within seven years, alongside the removal of almost all government
subsidies. The task force also worked on the lines that turnover would
rise to almost double.
Mr Cassar White yesterday dismissed the idea that the problems at the
Drydocks could be solved with better marketing or investing in new activities
in which the yard could never be competitive, describing these
as "just red herrings that distract us from the real issues".
One such problem is the fact that the ship repair industry has significant
"Even if we do everything right there is always a risk that we
will not achieve our targets fully," he said. "But we will
surely fail miserably if we continue to postpone difficult but important
"We owe to ourselves and to our workers to face reality, talk less
and act more promptly to save our shipyards from a bleak future."
Mr Cassar White warned against the idea of relying on government help
right from the beginning and also highlighted the need to think in competitive
"If the way we manage our business is fundamentally sound, we can
redefine our targets, take corrective measures and, if need be, ask
for assistance," he said. "This does not mean that right from
the very beginning of our planning process we rely on what the Italians
call assistenzialismo, i.e. a mentality that in case of
need we can rely on government bailing us out of our difficulties.
"This mentality which unfortunately is so prevalent among public
sector companies in Malta deprives us of our hunger to succeed, to rely
on our resources, to prove to ourselves and to everyone else that we
can win this difficult challenge."
When asked how the Drydocks management would deal with any protests
the unions might make over job shedding, Mr Cassar White admitted that
the unions have a "very difficult task ahead of them".
"They are the ones who have to face their members who naturally
fear over the uncertainty that this restructuring will bring to their
lives," he said.
The Drydocks chairman said that the Council of the Malta Drydocks would
continue to lead in the reform programme if all the parties agree on
Turning to the thorny issue of lack of agreement over the best way forward
for the yard, Mr Cassar White stressed that the shipyards would
have far better prospects if there was consensus to change the factors
which were affecting performance there.
He admitted that the management is proposing a "radical change",
but stressed this was a bid to guarantee a better future for the shipyards.
"The other two options to agreement to change are maintaining the
status quo or a programme of forced change.
"A very different style of management will be needed if either
of these latter options are adopted for our shipyards," was his
final, thought-provoking comment.