Ponte Ferries’ highly anticipated Malta-Sicily ferry route is kicking off on Thursday, it has announced, after the company finally received a temporary permit from the port authorities in Augusta.

Ticket sales for the fast-ferry, catamaran service to the port are now available, and launch at discounted rates for the duration of the month, with a return trip for a driver and private vehicle to cost under €100.

Any accompanying children aged 13 and under, as well as pets travel for free, while cyclists can bring their bicycles at no extra charge.

The offers are timed to coincide with the winter shopping season, allowing travellers to take advantage of slashed prices for Black Friday in Sicily, and secure deals on popular brands from the region’s popular shopping malls.

The service will initially operate five trips weekly, and the itinerary is said to allow for flexible and late departure times to enable passengers to bridge public holidays.

The launch comes after customers were frustrated by an initial misstep in the expected launch of the service in August, as the company had seemingly began selling tickets before acquiring the relevant permits to operate the route.

At the time, Ponte alleged that its inevitable granting of the permit had been derailed by a last-minute legal challenge by an unnamed competitor, widely assumed to be Virtu Ferries (though this was vehemently denied).

With the delay, Ponte was forced to offer customers a refund, as well as a voucher to use the service for free when it opened.

Addressing the delay and inconvenience caused to customers, a company spokesperson commented on Thursday: “We’re very appreciative of our clients’ patience and understanding during the past weeks, and thank all the parties involved for their continuous support and cooperation to give Ponte Ferries the green light to set sale.”

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 and Fabio Muscat, who are also the owner and CEO of OZO Group, respectively.

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