Gozo air link, a cargo hub linking the airport and Freeport, and drones feature in draft aviation policy

Developing the aviation sector in Gozo is one of the proposals included in the draft Civil Aviation Policy unveiled by Transport Minister Ian Borg


Developing the aviation sector in Gozo is one of the proposals included in the draft Civil Aviation Policy unveiled by Transport Minister Ian Borg.

The policy covering the period 2022-2030 is up for public consultation and identifies 20 objectives to improve the sector and address various issues. It was unveiled on Tuesday.

The policy says government is committed to enhance aviation facilities in Gozo and this will “help re-establish communication by air to and from the island”.

“Such projects will also create opportunities for aviation related activities that can create new jobs, new skills, and enhance creativity and innovation,” the policy document states.

It follows on the commitment made by Prime Minister Robert Abela a fortnight ago when he said government was committed to set up an air link between Gozo and Malta. He also said that a runway in Gozo will not take up agricultural land.

But the policy also makes brief reference to a development plan for the airport zone in Malta, which is still being drafted.

The idea behind the development plan is to optimise the use of aviation-related resources and land within the airport grounds and their immediate surroundings.

“The government’s commitment to the sector includes a new Airport Zone Strategic Plan (AZSP) which has reached its final drafting stage. Through this plan, the government aims to address the challenges being experienced within the area, such as lack of aircraft parking facilities, inefficient manoeuvring of aircraft onto and off the runways, and hangarage. Better utilisation of airport land resources will allow for further growth, while at the same time attract local and foreign investment,” the policy says.

An airport masterplan started being drafted in 2018 by what was then known as Malta Industrial Parks – it has since been renamed INDIS Malta – a government agency responsible for industrial land. Foreign specialised firms were contracted to draw up the plan but since then there have been no public announcements.

Air-sea cargo hub

The aviation policy also addresses the need to analyse the potential of developing an intermodal cargo hub between the airport and the Freeport.

“The government seeks to expand regular scheduled air cargo services, and enhance the nation’s airfreight handling capabilities. Considering Malta’s strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its airport’s vicinity to the Freeport, this policy aims to explore Malta’s potential to become a leading regional cargo hub for air-sea cargo traffic between Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” the policy reads.

It emphasises the need to work with all stakeholders to remove any bureaucratic and legal hurdles that currently exist to improve the efficiency of cargo transfers.

Developing a drone sector

One other aspect highlighted in the policy is the possibility of developing a drone sector.

“Malta offers significant benefits for the expansion of the RPAS industry (drones), mainly owing to its strategic location, operational climate, the ease of the necessary coordination between different supporting stakeholders, and the presence of a technical workforce,” it says.

The policy emphasises the need to maintain a close partnership with both public and private stakeholders, as well as regulatory bodies, to ensure the establishment of proper air traffic management, adequate training, and infrastructure, that enable the country to reap benefits from this emerging niche.

“The government will therefore ensure that Malta takes advantage of the opportunities offered through this growing niche through continuous development of necessary national legislation and infrastructure, aimed to attract related businesses for RPAS demonstrations, flight testing and certification services,” the policy suggests.

The Civil Aviation Policy public consultation is open until 28 October 2021 and the document can be accessed on the government’s public consultation website.

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