With gale forces winds from the West-Northwest which reached Force 8, the Gozo Channel ferries which cross between Malta and Gozo had to face large waves yesterday, leading them to change the route to combat the battering waves, by passing from behind Comino. On board one of the trips on the rough seas, a TVM crew experienced what Gozitans often have to go through when they cross over to Malta. They also spoke to the crew.
As one crosses the channel and near the Cirkewwa and Mgarr harbours, the wind was very strong and the waves kept getting larger.
However, inside the cabin of MV Ta’ Pinu owned by the Gozo Channel, experienced Captain Joseph Vella seemed relatively calm as he carried out every manoeuvre because his responsibility on the wheel is considerable.
“Every Captain who takes a ferry under his control with this company takes on the great responsibility of a €3.3 billion insurance liability,” he said.
Captain Vella described how many times he has seen the sea almost swallow the boat up, but his worst experience, which he remembers as if it were yesterday, was on the night between 7 – 8 March 2017, when the Azure Window collapsed.
“I had a crew member who lived in San Lawrenz and at around 8:45 am told us if the Window does not collapse today it never well, and 45 minutes later I got a call and was told me that the Azure Window was gone! In other words, the sea was terrible that day and I happened to be on duty.”
In these type of weather conditions, the company has less work.
Crew member Joe Galea said, “bad weather scares people away but when it’s nice out, it brings us more work.”
They say that a real sailor is one who can sail in any weather and in these conditions, and the crew needs to ensure that there are no risks to passengers or their vehicles.
Joe Rapa, another crew member said, “for example when we have trucks on board they have to be tied down.”
In good and bad weather, the Gozo Channel ferries are the only means of transport available which provide the service between Malta and Gozo. It is not only the Gozitan economy which depends on the ferry but also the livelihood of thousands of Gozitan employees who travel daily to Malta. The service is rarely suspended and over the last year, the only trips which were cancelled because of bad weather were on 8 November when seven return trips were cancelled.
In case of rough seas, the boats pass from behind Comino in order to have more shelter.
In these weather conditions, even the Gozo Channel crew believe that a tunnel makes a lot of sense even if their own service may be adversely affected.
“I am Gozitan and I know what it means to wake up at 2am to catch the 3.30am ferry to go to Malta for work, and therefore the tunnel is important for Gozitans especially for those who work in Malta,” says Giovann Xerri.
Joe Galea said he is in favour of the tunnel while Joseph Vella said, “the improved access will be an advantage but I think Gozo will no longer be the same Gozo.”
Tonio Lareto, another crew member said, “I think we need a tunnel.”
“I agree with the tunnel because at least those who live in Għajnsielem will no longer be exposed to the carbon monoxide which they are swallowing now,” said Joe Rapa.
The preparations for the tunnel project is moving along at a good pace with Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg announcing that Infrastructure Malta has received seven tenders at an average value of 10 million Euro by the time the call for tenders had closed. The bid was for the agency to have a team of experts who can plan and successfully carry out the development of the Malta-Gozo tunnel. He said that within the next few months, an international tender will also be issued to choose the contractors who will design, build and operate the tunnel.