Ponte Ferries has announced that it will operate a new, fast ferry catamaran service to Sicily from summer 2021 with a 96-metre passenger, vehicle and cargo-carrying, high-speed craft.

The ferry, which will shuttle every day between Malta and the Port of Augusta — situated between Catania and Syracuse — will be the second operator on the market.

The company said it “promises to bring much-needed choice and competition”.

The HSC Artemis will sail into the Grand Harbour in the coming days, where it will undergo internal upgrades to equip the vessel with the latest technologies and amenities.

She will also feature a club class lounge, among many other services.

The high-speed craft – which is fully classed and compliant with all international safety and navigation regulations, and registered under the Maltese flag – will be ready for the new ferry service operation between Malta and Sicily by summer 2021.

The vessel was operating in the Canary Islands and has recently been overhauled and refitted by Fred Olsen, a leading ferry operator in Spain that specialises in inter-island routes aboard high-speed vessels.

A Ponte Ferries spokesperson said: “We are thrilled and determined to offer a choice for hauliers and visitors to Sicily. We have researched the market for a few years now, and know that this is what people want.”

“We believe there is space for another player in this market segment and we look forward to launching our new, customer-focused approach, matched with a user-friendly ticketing system, in the coming months,” the spokesperson said, adding that Ponte Ferries has been in talks with the Valletta Cruise Port and Port of Augusta authorities for at least two years.

Ponte Ferries is a joint venture between Magro Brothers Investments Ltd and Merill In-vest Ltd, owned by entrepreneur brothers Michael and Julian Zammit Tabona, and businessmen Mario Muscat and Fabio Muscat, who are the owner and CEO of OZO Group, respectively.

Magro Brothers, which had been previously involved in the maritime industry, is now looking to re-enter the market through this investment, while the Zammit Tabona brothers have more than four decades’ experience, having been active in this field through their holdings in Captain Morgan Cruises, iSeeMalta’s hop-on, hop-off concept, and the ferry transport service connecting Sliema, Valletta and The Three Cities.

The high-speed craft will be able to shuttle more than 717 passengers between Malta and Augusta and has the flexibility to carry 245 cars, or 15 road freight trailers plus 180 cars.

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