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Maritime, Shipping

Going private

There are, we have been told, 14 bids for various parts of Malta Shipyards. None, however, for the whole business. It seems that no-one sees the value of keeping the parts together.

A pity, really: the yacht yard and the superyacht facility both benefit from the availability of full shipyard facilities and skills within the same organisation. But the value remains. Trade will need to continue, and seabourbe trade, the most efficient way to move goods about on a cost per tonne basis as well as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, will recover.

Remember, even new ships have accidents, and to remain efficient need maintennance. What the Maltese shipyards need to do, under any regime, is market effectively and stay competitive. Price is going to be a big issue!

The shipyards, properly run, should be a goldmine. Let’s hope they fulfil their promise! Oh yes, and that the people with the all-important skills are still around when we need them.

Malta has had ship repair facilities for hundreds of years. Without gojng back to classical times – the Romans had harbours on the island, so presumably they also had the means to build and repair ships. But from the Middle Ages on, there has been a shipyard at more or less the same place in te Grand Harbour.

This makes sense: Malta is a trading nation and has been from time immemorial. Malta’s fabled “strategic position” has worked to its advantage in trade as well as in military terms.

Malta is ideally placed for trade around the Mediterranean. Right there in the center, it is very close to the main east-west shipping lane between Suez and Gibraltar – which means a lot of traffic goes past every day. Remember, the Mediterranean is a major shipping route, with a lot of traffic just transiting en route from Asia to Northern Europe or the States.

Then there is the intra-Mediterranean trade. And there is a lot of it. The easiest way to service any port around the Med is from Malta’s ports – it’s in the middle of a long, relatively narrow sea. It may be a shorter distance from one western Med port to another – but a really long way to the eastern ports. But from Malta, they are all reachable.

All these ships need maintennance, need repairs, even refits. And this is the logic behind Malta Shipyards and whoever takes over once the privatisation process is completed. And mind, the economic crisis does not really affect this.

Yes, ships – especially bulk carriers – are being laid up. Trade is down. But don’t be fooled. It will not stop, not by a long shot.

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