The government announced last week that it will be negotiating the sale of two Malta Shipyards assets with Valletta Gateway Terminals and Manoel Island Yacht Yard Consortium.
The two entities were named as preferred bidders by the Ministry of Finance for the Marsa shipbuilding facility, and the Manoel Island yacht repair facility respectively.
The government had requested bids for all of the company’s assets or for each of the four separate units within. Apart from shipbuilding and the yacht repair yard, Malta Shipyards also has the superyacht facility and the ship repair facility.
The bids for the superyacht and ship-repair units are believed to have fallen below government expectations.
A total of 14 submissions were received, of which three were for the ship repair facilities, five for Malta Superyachts, three for the shipbuilding facilities and three for Manoel Island Yacht Yard. The government said it had accepted the recommendations of the Privatisation Unit’s evaluation committee with regard to the privatisation of the Marsa Shipbuilding and steel fabrication facility and the Manoel Island yacht repair facility.
The committee recommended that Valletta Gateway Terminals be selected as the preferred bidder for the Marsa Shipbuilding facility and Manoel Island Yacht Yard Consortium, which includes MIDI, for the Manoel Island yacht repair facility.
VGT handles cargo operations in the Grand Harbour and also operates the dockside facilities. The Manoel Island Consortium includes MIDI, responsible for the construction of apartments at Tignè Point and Manoel Island.
The privatisation of the shipyards started in the middle of last year and included an early retirement scheme taken up by almost all the workers at Malta Shipyards.
Earlier this year, sister paper MaltaToday had reported that none of the offers that poured in for the sale of the Malta Shipyards and its ancillary facilities had been deemed to have satisfied government’s expectations.
The 14 offers, reportedly too low to even consider selling, effectively stalled the timing for the privatisation process. The failure to clinch a bidder is a severe blow to the Gonzi administration following intensive efforts to cut down almost the entire workforce there through hefty early retirement schemes.
In a bid to shake off any form of commercial interest in the industry, government paid golden handshakes to 1,567 of the entire shipyards’ workforce – roughly 96 per cent of all workers.
But shortly after the early retirement schemes were launched, workers who took up the offer were re-engaged in September 2008 to continue works on the Fairmount Marine contract.
It turned out that government had tied the early retirement scheme to a specific timeframe, so there was no other way but to grant early retirement to those who demand it and re-engage them to go on with the works.
The GWU claims the shipyards could lose up to €40 million on the Fairmount contract because of incorrect costings by the shipyards’ management. A PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation into the contract is still ongoing.
Sources had said a clause in the contract would give Fairmount the right to take over the management “in case of abandonment of contract”, forcing government to take back those workers who had just ‘retired’ to finish the contract.