In what seems as a delayed if unsurprising reaction, resident associations claiming to represent the Cottonera region and other NGOs have for the umpteenth time, turned the gun on Palumbo Shipyards. This time it seems that the bone of contention lies with MSC Cruises proposed purchase of a 50% stake in Palumbo’s shipyard.
In a recent letter to the Prime Minister and various members of Parliament, as well as a press release to all media outlets, the same group listed a number of what it deems as grave issues which surround the operations of the Palumbo shipyard and which, they claim, need to be addressed prior to the merger with MSC Cruises. Ironically, one of these ‘issues’ revolves around the ‘air and noise’ pollution which allegedly is produced by the shipyard.
This is quite an astonishing claim. Anyone who has lived in the area in the days of the ‘Dockyards’, can remember these disruptive and irksome sounds and the inconvenience they caused, especially at night. However, those of a certain age can also attest that once privatised, the cacophony which was part and parcel of daily life in the Cottonera region due to sand or grit blasting became a thing of the past.
To further raise questions as to why this particular ‘issue’ is once again being brought forward by this group, one must remember that back in February 2016, the law courts had acquitted Palumbo Shipyards of disturbing Senglea residents’ repose as it could not be proven that the noise in question was emanating from the same shipyard. Therefore, one must ask, why are we here, yet again?
It also bears to note that when the Dockyard was a state-run enterprise, the grit resulting from these blasting operations was left to its own devices, usually ending up being ferried into the Grand Harbour as silt. When Palumbo took over the shipyards, this residue was collected in purposely invested machinery and later exported, in a bid to minimise the damage to the environment.
These very facts are conveniently forgotten, whenever another concerted attack is conjured out of thin air on Palumbo’s enterprise, an enterprise which not only has succeeded in turning the fortunes of a then bankrupt company while contributing to our economy through millions in taxes, but also invests in the community by aiding local associations to continue fostering their traditions. This philanthropic aspect of the company rarely if ever makes the headlines, which suits very well certain entities whose agendas are hell-bent on causing damage and disruption to the shipyards.
Paradoxically, these same NGOs and resident associations which purport to represent the interests of the area residents, namely Senglea residents, have been historically rejected as their representatives countless times. A petition by Senglea residents a few years ago, in 2016 to be precise, when this same issue was at its peak, clearly stated that more than 600 residents did not recognise the Residents’ Association of Senglea as their representative. In a population which currently numbers a little more than a couple of thousand, which obviously includes babies, children and under-16s, 600 signatures equals a lot of residents, who over the years have effectively said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to these so-called ‘resident associations’, who still insist that they have the well-being of the area at heart.
Therefore, with this in mind, this latest stance which builds on a long series of ‘concerns’ by these groups, simply begs the question; if the actual residents have shunned this group’s representation, what or better still, who, is actually propelling their agenda?