Virtu Ferries is a household name both in Malta and a good number of localities in Sicily. What is less well known is that Virtu is acknowledged worldwide as pioneers and leaders in High Speed Ferry travel and carriage of cargo.
As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary, on 17th July 2018, we inevitably look backwards. Thirty years ago we started a service for 300 passengers, today we operate the largest High Speed catamaran in the Mediterranean and the second largest in the world. The service is no longer a once daily service; Jean de La Valette made 1006 trips on the Malta and Sicily route in 2017.
Thirty years on it is also time to look to the future. Saint John Paul II will bring Malta even closer to main land Europe. Jean de La Valette and Maria Dolores before it, revolutionised importation between Malta and Sicily, effectively becoming a bridge between the two islands. Maltese and Sicilian entrepreneurs have taken full advantage of this “bridge” to offer a better service and at a lower cost to their customers, while at the same time increase their margins.
Virtu Ferries is undertaking a number of initiatives to better serve the Maltese and Sicilian business communities and as a major contributor to the tourist industry, to increase incoming tourism from Sicily. We are evaluating the possibility of additional ports of call and better timings of departures from Sicily, when Saint John Paul II joins Jean de La Valette on the line in 2019.
We thank all our passengers and customers and we look to the future with confidence.
Henri Saliba - Managing Director
17th July 1988
Inauguration of the Malta - Sicily
high Speed passenger Ferry Service
In 1989, during the Lebanese civil War, Virtu Ferries were the only ferry company operating out of the christian enclave of Beirut. The SES Santa Maria (on charter) was featured in the international media.
San Frangisk and San Pawl are air cushion catamarans which combine the most advanced characteristics of catamarans and hover crafts. Such a combination has resulted in vessels that extend higher speed, lower fuel consumption, lower noise, less wave-making, higher manoeuvrability and higher passenger comfort and safety.
Virtu had the honour of hosting HH Pope John Paul II on San Frangisk on a voyage to St. Paul’s Islands and Gozo and the memorable re-entry into the Grand Harbour Valletta.
Since 2003 Virtu has been running a seasonal high speed passenger ferry service from April to September, between Venice and Adriatic ports in Slovenia and croatia. The service includes a Day Return Excursion to Venice.
During the Second Lebanese Civil War in 2006, M/V San Gwann was chartered to the Government of Australia to evacuate Australian citizens and other nationalities from Beirut to Larnaca in Cyprus.
M/V Maria Dolores, revolutionised the carriage of goods between Malta and our closest European neighbour, Sicily. Malta finally became part of the Single Market in everyday terms. Importers, exporters and the Maltese public began to experience the advantages of the economies of scale of the single market on a daily basis. The success of Maria Dolores was such that, in 2008, Virtu contracted the building of another vessel with a greater capacity for trailers and commercial vehicles.
Malta joined the Schengen Zone on 21st December 2007. The first Maltese passengers to avail themselves of passport-free travel arrived in Pozzallo, on M/V Maria Dolores, at 8am on that very day. Another first for Virtu.
HH pope Benedict XVI visited Malta in April 2010. The highlight of his holiness’s visit was the grand harbor crossing from Kalkara to Valletta. Pope Benedict was Virtu’s guest of honour on San Pawl for that crossing.
M/V Jean de La Valette, delivered from builders, Austal Ships, Western Australia Jean de La Valette is synonymous with Sicily. With 1006 voyages between the two islands it has made Sicily a home from home for many Maltese, now increasingly looking to Sicily for long and short leisure breaks. With a garage that can take 17 commercial trailers, the vessel has taken Malta a step further to economic integration with Europe. Jean de La Valette is currently the largest high Speed catamaran deployed in the Mediterranean and the second largest in the world.
Virtu Ferries responded to the Libya crisis of 2011 by deploying Maria Dolores, San Gwann and San Pawl on multiple voyages to evacuate thousands of expatriates of various nationalities as well as Libyans, many suffering horrendous war injuries, to Malta and Tunisia for life saving medical treatment. These voyages were undertaken on behalf of the governments of Malta and the United States of America, The International Red cross, Medicines Sans Frontières as well as major international corporations Hyundai, Westerngeco and Odebrecht.
Virtu also operated voyages on its own account and had the satisfaction of offering free passage to Maltese nationals stranded in Libya.
When sectarian fighting escalated in Libya in 2015, Virtu deployed the M/V San Gwann, on behalf the Italian government, to evacuate the Italian Embassy and Military Mission from Tripoli, Libya to Augusta in Sicily, under escort of the Marina Militare.
In 2016, The Virtu Ferries Business Centre, housed in the company’s passenger Terminal, was opened as a venue for promoting trade between Malta and Sicily. Virtu Ferries invites Maltese and Sicilian manufacturers and suppliers, to exhibit at the centre. These exhibitions are open to the public. Entrance is free for both exhibitors and viewers.
The €25,000,000 3.75% Unsecured Virtu Finance plc Bond 2027 was listed on the Malta Stock Exchange on 7th December 2017.
At 1000 tons deadweight, Wavepiercing catamaran Saint John paul II will be the largest high Speed Ropax Catamaran operating in the Mediterranean and the second largest in the world. The vessel is being built in accordance with the EU Maritime green policy, which seeks to promote an innovative, competitive and environmentally-friendly maritime industry. Both Incat, the builders, and MTU, the engine manufacturers, are world leaders in the field. Saint John Paul II will join Jean de La Valette on the Malta-Sicily route in early 2019 and will open new opportunities for Maltese/Sicilian cooperation in various fields.