24 August 2005

The Web

Government cautious on decrease in port charges

James Debono

While stating that an overall reduction in port charges is “still expected”, Minister Censu Galea has adopted a more cautious approach on figures mentioned by the minister himself in October last year.
Back in October 2004, Minister Censu Galea told sister newspaper MaltaToday that the much-anticipated port reform will bring about a sharp decrease of 20-25 per cent in the cost of container management - the equivalent of Lm30 to Lm40 less on every container.
Such announcements have increased anticipation for the reform among business circles.
But in the wake of concerns expressed by the Federation of Industry on reports that port charges are not expected to go down, the minister refrained from reiterating such a definitive commitment.

Asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times whether the government is still envisaging the sharp drop in prices mentioned in October, Galea limited himself to saying that “the present tariff structure includes a number of elements and it is still expected that an overall reduction of prices will take place.”
A few weeks ago, a spokesperson for one of the interested consortia was quoted by the Times saying that prices are more likely to increase when a new operator will take over from the GWU owned Cargo Handling Ltd.
According to the same source the new operator will still be bound by law to the tariffs, which are made up of nine different items, most of which are related to port workers.
On Monday The Federation of Industry called on Minister Censu Galea to ensure that irrespective of whoever wins the port tender, port charges will go down.
In his reply to the FOI’s appeal, Galea appealed to those interested in providing the cargo handling service to present proposals which reflect the needs of Maltese industry and to take in consideration that merchant shipping in the Mediterranean is expected to increase in the coming years. In its statement the ministry reiterated its commitment to ensure that expenses for local industry and importers are reduced “as far as possible”.



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