The government has announced that MEPA has received seven new applications for yacht marinas, of which two would be based in Ghajnsielem in Gozo. The Labour Party had already pledged a cruise terminal and 500-berth yacht marina in Gozo in its electoral manifesto, so it seems it is going to keep its promise and allowing further degradation of the Gozitan coast.
I had already written a productive rant about a yacht marina in Gozo back in 2013, and based on some research I had conducted in this post, it seems that I was bang on cue.
It should be noted that we became aware of these seven applications as a result of a Parliamentary Question directed to the Prime Minister. If experience has shown as anything with such applications, we would probably have been made aware of such a project three days before the agreement with some big investor is signed (50 shades of American University of Malta).
This is what we know so far and we can expect to happen:
The government wants to build a cruise terminal and a 500-berth yacht marina in Gozo. Two applications for yacht marinas in Ghajnsielem have been received, so the above two projects can possibly happen. It is important to first pinpoint where Ghajnsielem is on the map:
The following map shows that the entire coast of Ghajnsielem and a small part of the Qala coastline are eligible to be used for yacht marinas.
Logically, the part of the Qala coastline would be exempt from being used a Marina since the applications received only list down Ghajnsielem. However, I would not bank too much on this as boundaries seem to become fluid when development is concerned in Malta. In any case, let us take a closer look at the Ghajnsielem and Qala coastline and highlight the areas where these two marinas may be constructed:
In 2013, MaltaToday covered this story in great detail (props to James Debono), and provides further crucial pieces to this very elusive puzzle. The government proposed a cruise liner terminal close to area B in the map above, but this was shot down by MEPA as a study showed immeasurable negative impacts to seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) meadows that are protected under the EU Habitats Directive. However, there is a small caveat that allows MEPA to approve such a project if it can be carried out for reasons of overriding public interest. Thankfully, Malta will have to seek permission from the European Commission and to compensate for the loss of habitat.
We then have Xatt l-Ahmar within area A, which is a picturesque bathing site that unfortunately fits the bill for a small yacht marina. The area itself is not protected, but is listed as a Proposed Level 2 or higher area of ecological value on local plans.
There is also the possibility of developing the coastline under Fort Chambray which is also located in Area A in the map above. This was echoed by Fort Chambray developer Michael Caruana, but you can imagine how arousing it must be for him to have all those millionaires berthing their super yachts a couple of metres away from his brand new accommodation complex. How altruistic.
According to the MaltaToday article, the most viable option for new yacht marina will be land reclamation in the area close to Mgarr Harbour (area B above). The coastline in that area is pristine but is also listed as a Proposed Level 2 or higher area of ecological value on local plans, and also a site of archaeological importance.
A 2009 study found that this area can only accommodate a maximum of 148 berths, which is a far cry from the 500 pledged by the Labour party. Any land reclamation in that area will lead to further congestion in Mgarr Harbour and damage to the sea bed.
Therefore, it is going be to very interesting to see what these applications contain. Will the coastline next to the Mgarr Harbour be extended through land reclamation, leading to damage to the seabed? Or will the popular bathing site at Xatt l-Ahmar and the adjoining area under Fort Chambray be converted into a lavish yacht marina for rich people to use? Or will it be both?
Either way, these two projects are a complete waste of money and resources, as Malta cannot accommodate so many yachts in one given summer period, and the use of these marinas would be seasonal at best. This was echoed back in 1996, through a Yacht Development Study that found that Mgarr Harbour is “a less viable location because, being on Gozo its demand will be seasonal in nature”.
However, we should not forget that in Malta the developers’ greed and the government’s disregard for the environment only increases with time. At least jobs will be created, regenerating the economy of Gozo, Monte Carlo of the Mediterranean, attracting investors, bla bla bla… I think we’ve heard it all by now.