Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

101 items from the much larger market to the north. “Several industries depend on a scheduled daily fast-ferry service for the importation of these essential products,” says Portelli. “To mention just two, the island has a thriving pharmaceutical industry that requires urgent deliveries on a regular basis, the same can be said of the up-and-coming aviation maintenance industry. Also worth mentioning is the fact that a good number of Sicilians provide Malta with skilled labour generally and also find a prominent place in the tourist industry, a major pillar of the local economy.” A more recent service, with a strong socioeconomic input, commenced against all odds in 2021 despite the Covid pandemic. It provides commuters with a fast-ferry service between Malta’s capital city Valletta and Gozo, the other main island in the Maltese Archipelago. The vessels deployed on this service are San Frangisk, a 317-passenger ferry, and the new Gozo Express with capacity for 322 passengers. This too is an officially designated essential service. There are other areas under the Virtu Group banner. “We have Venezia Lines, a wholly owned subsidiary, which since 2001 has run a sessional fast-ferry passenger service between Venice and four Adriatic ports in Croatia and Slovenia every April to October,” he says. “San Pawl, a sister vessel of San Frangisk, is on this route. “The company’s other fast ferry, Maria Dolores, is on charter between Tarifa, Spain and Tangier Ville, Morocco.” For Portelli, post-Covid recovery is an immediate priority. The tourism industry is experiencing a boom, and this applies to Malta and Sicily to the same extent as it does to other tourist destinations. Virtu is benefitting from this upsurge. “We are experiencing a healthy increase in travel between Malta and Sicily,” says Portelli. “The Malta – Sicily route is the company’s core business and consequently will continue to be given the attention it deserves, in terms of passenger travel, cargo and innovation.” Virtu will also continue to update its environmental policy. “Saint John Paul II, the company’s most recent build, is certified by classification society DNV as complying with both International Maritime Organization’s Fuel Oil Data Collection System, and the European Union MRV Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2015/757 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport,” says Portelli. “Virtu is actively looking at developments in ship electric propulsion systems with a view to employing these at the appropriate time.” Photo: credit “ Virtu is actively looking at developments in ship electric propulsion systems”