ANALYSIS by JOE GARCIA
As part of a damage limitation exercise, Mr. Montegriffo may not resign now to avoid an unwanted bye-election which could precipitate a general election.
Differences between Mr. Montegriffo and Mr. Caruana have been talked about in private in informed circles since the general election, if not before, but have not surfaced in the public domain until now.
Mr. Montegriffo went into the election in what turned out to be a forlorn attempt to become Chief Minister. He obtained more votes than Mr. Caruana but not enough to generate the kind of personal sympathy that could have unseated Mr. Caruana as GSD leader. It is something he has not been able to forget.
In the latest edition of The Gibraltar Who's Who, published today, Mr. Montegriffo points out that he "topped the poll in the May 1996 election which brought the GSD into power in Gibraltar."
Mr. Montegriffo entered the House of Assembly with the AACR in 1988. He left the AACR two years later in another leadership battle at a time when a PANORAMA opinion poll put him ahead of the then AACR leader. He formed the GSD, becoming its leader, but did not leave his parliamentary seat. In this way the GSD gained its first seat in the House of Assembly.
Ironically, a year later he had to choose between being in politics or retaining his legal partnership. He opted for the latter and left the fledging GSD in turmoil.
In such difficult circumstances, and in the midst of unrelenting accusations that he was soft on Spain, Mr. Caruana reluctantly took over the leadership and fought, and won, the ensuing bye-election. The GSD gained the opposition at the 1992 election, he as leader, and went on to lead the GSD to victory in the 1996 general election. In his mind, he had saved - and strengthened - the GSD. Certainly he had no intention of leaving the leadership, particularly in a moment of glory, even if he obtained less votes than Mr. Montegriffo.
This largely submerged and evidently latent crisis in leadership has privately tormented the two men, denting their political relationship in escalating disenchantment.
It has long been an open secret in journalistic and political circles that Mr. Montegriffo was not expected to stand at the next election with the GSD. In fact Peter Borge, a doctor, has been frequently named as the most likely replacement.
Now, in not denying the obvious, Mr. Montegriffo has confirmed the inevitable. The question that arises is whether he can remain a minister, much less Deputy Chief Minister for long, if growing talk of a Government split reverberates around the Rock with the consequent risk of a cloud of political instability descending over No.6 Convent Place. He could cease to be a minister but remain a member of the House, supportive of the Government. In such a scenario, tourism minister Joe Holliday would be expected to take over his ministerial portfolio, and effectively, become No. 2. A chasm has also been created between grass-root supporters.
As Mr. Caruana stares at the resultant situation, he must decide what to do next.
He could try to allow the situation to hopefully fizzle out, marking time for the next election. However, now that the political hot potato has exploded in the open, it may not go away that easily. If it is seen, increasingly, as a snowballing negative situation, it might tempt Mr. Caruana to cut clean and hold an election earlier than anticipated.
Although it is too early to know what will be the actual effect, there is a wave of optimism at the air terminal, "We are being vigilant of trends," PANORAMA was told.
People are not going to start buying air tickets just to come here and buy duty free. But those who may fly to nearby airports, such as Malaga, could decide to take advantage of what Gibraltar offers. Everyone likes a bargain!
Duty free sales here already exceed the £1 million mark. Will it become a multi-million pound business?
The British Airport Authority, and others, are putting out the line in UK that margins are to be reduced to an extent that passengers will not notice that duty free sales have disappeared. Only in alcohol and tobacco will prices be that much higher given the level of taxes that is now payable.
Another imponderable arises from the fact that supposedly common tariffs around Europe are not that unified, which means that prices for certain goods differ from country to country.
There can be huge differences in the duty imposed by countries on spirits, that is why Sweden is the most expensive for whisky, for example. And the UK is among the most expensive for cigarettes.
Anyway, so-called "duty free" prices have not been that advantageous in some items.
Another point is that duty free allowances were limited to 200 cigarettes, two litres of wine, and one litre of spirits and some perfume. That remains in the case of Gibraltar. However, new customs guidelines in former-duty free countries provide for 800 cigarettes, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer per person.
So what will the future hold in such changed circumstances? Certainly the aura of duty free has always provided an attraction. There is no reason why passengers should not prefer an airport which allows for duty free goods to one that does not.
Freeze EU directives until Gibraltar gets level playing field
Three days after the PANORAMA report, the news surfaced from Brussels.
As we reported last week, the UK says it attaches "particular importance" to this issue, and it is thought the Gibraltar Government has no option but to comply. In fact, Britain wants Gibraltar to act swiftly in implementing the 4th and 7th Directives, which finance centre minister Peter Montegriffo says will result in an exodus of companies leaving Gibraltar for other finance centres.
The Government here had been trying to gain time by agreeing to implement the 4th and 7th EU Directives but in the hope that, in the meantime, Britain would have delivered on the obstacles being placed on insurance passporting (revealed in PANORAMA last month) and would also have given the go-ahead to banking passporting.
The Norwich Union insurance firm established its international arm in Gibraltar on the grounds that it would be allowed to do business across Europe from its Gibraltar base. But this has not materialised, and a second-best way out - known as "post-boxing" - has so far not been accepted by the UK.
Spain, in particular, wants nothing to do with it, which puts the Norwich plan in acute embarrassment as Spain was their prime target.
With the UK on the way to the European Court, the Chief Minister has said that Britain was coming under "severe pressure" to get those EU Directives transposed into Gibraltar law - with resulting pressure being applied on Gibraltar as a result.
He confirmed that there was "more or less" an understanding with Britain to first "unblock the post-boxing issue in respect of insurance passporting and announce banking passporting."
The situation has now caught up with Gibraltar on the 4th and 7th Directives, said Mr. Caruana, again confirming the thrust of PANORAMA's exclusive report last week.
Thanks to PANORAMA's disclosures in the public interest, it is now common knowledge that insurance passporting - granted 2 years ago! - remains grounded, as some EU members are reluctant to deal direct with Gibraltar, while Spain is openly campaigning against the Rock.
The pertinent question is this: Can Britain guarantee that Spain and other EU members will fully recognise Gibraltarís financial services, including passporting?
If not, as lawyers and others are saying, should not Gibraltar freeze the introduction of EU Directives which are damaging to it, until there is a level playing field and the EU and all its members accept Gibraltar's EU rights in every area to which it is entitled by virtue of its long-standing membership of the European Union?
If Gibraltar were to put EU Directives on hold, such as the 4th and 7th Directives, there is every likelihood that Britain would resort to "direct rule" measures, implementing the Directives from London - through special Cabinet legal instruments - to avoid ending up in the European court of justice. That was also disclosed in PANORAMA last week.
In fact, during the first 3 months of this year, only France, Portugal, Russia and Germany were above us.
At No.5 Andalucia should have nothing to complain about Gibraltar's investment, unless Madrid thinks there is something wrong with that as well!
The GBC 1995/96 accounts were, in fact, approved by the GBC Board in April this year and audited the following month.
The accounts show a trading deficit for the year in excess of £1 million.
A Government subsidy for £720,000 - plus licence fees paid directly by the public totalling over £260,000 - helped GBC balance its books.
The accounts clearly show that GBC is not a viable entity in commercial terms - and has never been.
It brings into question the charade of a more expensive "re-launch", costing the public more in indirect Government subsidy, already marred by amateurish mistakes and tainted by public outcry.
In order to survive without public subsidy, GBC will need to come up with close on £1 million in advertising revenue - which it did not achieve in better times.
The bulk of its expenditure goes in "programme and operating expenses" in excess of £1 million, which is certain to increase as part of the "re-launch". Staff remuneration alone exceeded £700,000 in 1995/96 - it is more now.
Typical of the ill-conceived self-praise emanating from GBC is what it says about its radio service: "Throughout the period under review, Radio Gibraltar continued to provide an unrivalled service to the community."
Certainly it was unrivalled - a monopoly without rivals! If GBC as a whole faced competition, like any other station (even in the Campo area), the public would soon notice the difference.
Companies who have not presented their 1995/96 accounts, or even more recent ones, get an imaginary tax assessment invented by the Tax Office - and made to pay!
Certainly small companies everywhere get delayed on their mountain of bureaucratic paperwork , but whereas elsewhere there is a strong element of consideration, in Gibraltar they tend to get treated as if they were multi-nationals able to afford plentiful staff to handle any situation.
For example, in Britain itself, companies with a certain turnover are not required to produce audited accounts.
In Gibraltar, not only must small companies do so as if they were huge concerns, but if there is a delay, the Tax office invents the profit they think the company has made. We say invent because the assessments they invariable make, judging from various reports reaching us, bear no relation to the levels of profits a company may have been making in recent years.
It could be something else if, in the absence of audited accounts, the Tax office demanded a similar figure to recent profits, but this is not the case. With many businesses experiencing a worsening trading situation, as confirmed by a PANORAMA survey only last month, if anything, the fortunes of many are deteriorating and not improving.
Yet, the Tax Office actually invent a level several times much higher than recent trends, and demand that tax be paid on such imaginary figures!
Can this be right and proper? Can this be fair and reasonable? Those are the questions being asked. More so when, in other countries, small companies are exempt from sending in audited accounts.
Many companies are afraid to come out public about this immorality perpetrated by the Tax Office for fear that they may be victimised.
Clearly, this is a matter on which the Chamber of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses should make strong and urgent representations.
The new rules that came into effect as a result of the publication in July 1996 in England of Lord Woolf's Access to Justice; Final report were implemented in England and Wales in April this year. These procedural reforms will be introduced in Gibraltar in the near future through the operation of the Supreme Court Ordinance.
"There has been growing discontent by employees for a couple of months," said the union.
They claim that benefits have been devalued and the company is not properly addressing the issue. Unless a positive response is forthcoming, industrial action could escalate.
My dear, te lo dije 2 months ago, que next week hablariamo del ministron que se quiere ir, pero con una cosa y otra, me olvide.
Es que these last 2 months have been one problem after another, y ahora con la barraca en Eastern Beach estoy enpepina.
Para gazpacho esta la cosa, cariŮo, but as a I was saying enenante, el Pita Two quiere salir pitando.
Es que dicen que el Pita One no le deja ni de jugar a los meblis.
My dear, it's no secret that you belong to the Pita Two wing of the party, but you cannot accuse me of belonging to the other wing of the party, porque yo soy del werking union.
Esto es mas complicao que comerse un salty pina con un knife and fork. Do you think there will be another bye-election, porque en el televisho decia 'RESIGNING?' el headline, while El Pipo said que el ministron was poised to leave el Governation.
Lo que faltaba es otro election ahora, con la calor que hace. Como que estoy guarnia.
Yo voy a comer espinaca como Popeye, for if the flies.
The following letters are published in the printed edition
Sr. Abel Matutes, the thinking man's Mr. Bean, puts forward an unworkable, unthinkable, unacceptable, uninvited proposal in a seemingly "sincere" effort to deliver to misinformed, mislead, ill-educated generations of Spaniards on the question of the Sovereign People of Gibraltar, the Gibraltarians.
Engage in a Spaniard in the dark topic of the Spanish Inquisition and before long the term "Holy" Inquisition will be adopted. Somehow this term "Holy" indemnifies the national ethos. The fact that the "Spanish Inquisition" was organised under "royal Spanish" and not papal control would never form part of Spanish school curriculum.
1969, a special prison destined for Catholic priests opens in Zamora. More priests are incarcerated in Spain than in the whole of Europe including communist countries. This wouldn't form part of Spanish school curriculum.
The Gibraltarians, a law abiding British and European citizens. A people with a friendly disposition, who through the course of time have repeatedly lend a helping hand to many across the causeway, a people whose charitable organisations to this day "help" elderly Spanish citizens, old folks homes. A people who employ and offer a decent and viable lifestyle to thousands of Spaniards who are otherwise forgotten by Madrid and have been forgotten by Madrid for generations.
Madrid defames, insults and denigrates Gibraltarians, irrespective of stature, age or creed, to Madrid, and given Madridís hold on the national Spanish educational system, to the Spaniards in general, Gibraltarians are fair game.
We see in Madrid the best of what Spain has to offer by way of governing integrity. A political "integrity" which sees Right and Left win elements joining forces in an attempt to foil the wishes of the majority. Madrid's centrist government is acting as if the country was in a state of war. "Madrid still knows best". So much for Spanish Democracy.
Any government which fabricates lies about, insults and endeavours to denigrate a "sovereign people", and furthermore promulgates all this misinformation to the World, is unworthy of legitimate recognition.
The meeting place of continents
Gibraltar is going full speed ahead in charting a course into the 21st century from its strategic location in one of the world's busiest sea lanes. It is encouraged by the marked resurgence in recent years in the fortunes of its port and shipping-related industries, while retaining a strong element of growth potential as only 7 per cent of the 70,000 ships that sail through the Strait of Gibraltar currently call at the Rock's port.
It is a changing scene. Building on success, a more commercially-oriented port authority is being set up, while final decisions are being taken on a major container transhipment facility. Gibraltar is already the biggest bunker port in the western Mediterranean and cruise calls are also on a clear uptrend.
Cruising has picked up after a brief glitch to the extent that limits may have to be placed on the number of passengers it can handle at any one time, conscious of the need to guarantee customer satisfaction. It was recently voted one of the most receptive destinations as well as "the most improved port facilities" in the Mediterranean. Further plans are afoot to extend its modern cruise terminal to allow for overnight stays and fly-cruises, for example.
Looking ahead, the Government will shortly be taking decisions about becoming a major container transhipment port. "I am determined that this project should come to fruition if it is commercially viable," enthused Joe Holliday, minister of tourism and transport. International interest is coming from American and Far-eastern concerns who would secure a lease on a build, operate, transfer basis.
There are several arguments in favour of this idea. Although the Mediterranean in general probably has too many ports vying with each other to be major regional hubs, Gibraltar's geographical position would enable it to fulfil a role which is open only to a few: line-linking.
A substantial portion of the containers passing through Algeciras, on the other side of Gibraltar Bay, are transhipped from vessels on north-south routes, serving South America and Africa, to those on east-west voyages through the Mediterranean and vice versa. Tangier also has hopes to develop a transhipment centre, but experts suggest that building a terminal in Gibraltar would be far more economical, though still expected to cost in excess of £180 million.
If Gibraltar did become a line-linking centre it would also probably develop a network of regional feeder services. The increased traffic through the port would boost all the ancillary service providers and would create between 200 to 250 permanent jobs once up and running. It would also help reduce the port's current reliance on the bunker market.
On a smaller scale, other land reclamation is to be undertaken to expand facilities for port operators, allowing for improved storage, supplies and the loading/ offloading of containers for the local market. Ironically, the local container business is one area which has been in decline over recent years. Ten years ago over 3,500 containers were handled; this dropped last year to under 1,000. This is a reflection of the reopening of the land frontier with Spain, resulting in a gradual shift to supplies by road.
Where volumes keep soaring is in the bunkering business, propelling Gibraltar to the number one spot in the western Mediterranean. The minister, however, is showing no signs of complacency and says there is still room for expansion. Bunker operators agree that more vessels can be handled. They have seen ships calling for bunkers rise from under 1,000 to over 3,000 in less than a decade.
Ship registry has been regaining lost ground now that Gibraltar is the only jurisdiction in the European Union, apart from Britain itself, flying the Red Ensign flag. While it is recognised that Gibraltar enjoys competent professional back-up, it is felt there is a need to change some areas of current legislation to improve competitiveness by being more attuned to the internationally recognised standards in other registers, like Bermuda and the Isle of Man.
Not without problems is the setting up of the new Gibraltar Port Authority to replace the Government-run port department. An element of resistance to certain changes could arise from the unions. The restructured administration will be headed by a chief executive who will be responsible for the commercial arm of the port. In handling marketing and generating income, he would be expected to adopt a far more proactive commercial stance than what Gibraltar has grown accustomed to. Despite recent successes Mr. Holliday acknowledges that the port is "an asset which has been undersold."
The new port authority will include a second surveyor, which is seen as a useful addition at a time when more ships want to register on the Rock.
Pollution control is an important area given the magnitude of bunkering operations. In the past it all revolved around the Ministry of Defence, but the aim now is for the port to have its own resources and to fully coordinate the newly produced pollution disaster plan.
The port is also investing heavily on sea rescue, replacing old craft by a new port launch and a smaller, faster vessel to react swiftly to any emergency. It has also taken over the provision of radio services and is to introduce a system of licences for port users - from bunker operators to ship chandlers, all will be licensed.
Certainly times of change.
Re-establishing the Gibraltar Ship Registry as a serious choice for owners wishing to use an open registry flag has been one of the major achievements of the Gibraltar government over the past two years.
Ship registry went through a difficult time in the early and mid nineties and the momentum which had been gained in the previous decade was lost as the UK withdrew Gibraltar's authority to register additional vessels, due to concerns at the way the registry was administered. The remaining fleet gradually dwindled.
That unhappy episode is now in the past. Since late 1997 a small team, led by former UK Maritime Safety Agency (MSA) surveyor Roland Green, has worked hard to relaunch the flag and its efforts are now starting to be rewarded as numbers, though still low, begin to pick up.
Mr Green reports eight additions in the past 14 months though, as would be expected, one or two ships have left the register. He notes that the level of enquiries is picking up substantially with considerable interest from Italian and Greek owners.
Gibraltar is now a Category 1 Red Ensign Group flag. That means it complies with the standards agreed by the group and in practice follows the policies and standards of the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA - the successor to the MSA). It also has the benefit that vessels flying the Gibraltar flag are entitled to Royal Navy protection.
Ship registry is not in itself a particularly lucrative business.
Administering a flag requires experienced and qualified surveying staff with back-up personnel. Even the big registers such as Panama and Liberia generate relatively modest revenues compared to the massive amount of tonnage entered.
The real value of a register lies elsewhere. It generates business for lawyers and ship and registry firms. It also helps build up a strong maritime foundation by gradually increasing shipping expertise. If other things are right, shipping companies using the register may see the advantage of setting up offices in Gibraltar.
There are, says Mr Green, several reasons why owners should consider flying the Gibraltar flag. One of the most compelling is that Gibraltar is within the European Union, allowing its vessels to operate in the EU cabotage trades. Apart from the UK, Gibraltar is the only Red Ensign Group member within the EU.
Also Mr Green stresses that, while ensuring standards are not compromised, the Ship Registry staff do their best to make it easy to register vessels by providing an efficient and responsive service.
Charges for the register are kept at a "reasonable" level while a range of different types of registration is on offer: full, bareboat charter, provisional and ships under construction.
Gibraltar follows the UK's manning requirements which now have very few restrictions on nationality. Certificated officers must hold either a UK certificate of competency or a Certificate of Equivalent Competency. The position of master of some types of ship - large passenger vessels, Ro-Ro ships and product and chemical tankers - is restricted to nationals of certain countries.
This all adds up to a package with few restrictions of concern to a good quality operator. Mr Green says: "This is not a 'flag of convenience'."
The Ship Registry follows the MCA in only taking ships in class with certain classification societies. These are: Lloyd's Register, American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, Det Norske Veritas, Germanischer Lloyd and Registro Italiano Navale, all of which have British based committees.
That means, for example, Gibraltar cannot accept vessels classed with the Japanese classification society Class NK.
The MCA has recently audited the Ship Registry. Its findings are likely to be known at around the time of the annual Red Ensign Group conference which will be held in Gibraltar on May 25-27.
The relaunch of the Gibraltar Ship Registry has gone well so far. It is though a long-term project which will require sustained effort.
In Gibraltar PSC inspections are currently carried by the Port Department. If the administration of the port is restructured, as is likely, there could well be a case for bringing all ship survey and inspection matters under one administration, as is the case in the UK.
On the commercial side one local lawyer warns that Gibraltar's EU advantage may not last for ever. Sooner or later Malta and Cyprus, both with strong and established open registers, are likely to gain EU membership. He says that makes it vital to establish and reinforce Gibraltar's reputation for quality and service now before competition increases.
In the short term, though, it looks as though Mr Green will be kept busy as more owners of vessels ranging from drilling rigs to feeder container-ships come to the Ship Registry.
To the outsider it may seem strange that a port would want to promote itself as the ideal place to arrest a ship. Gibraltar does just that, and with very good reason.
At any one time there could be, typically, ten ships under arrest in Gibraltar, usually either berthed at the Detached Mole or at anchor in the Eastern Anchorage on the opposite side of the Rock to the harbour.
Arrested ships mean business for Gibraltar's numerous lawyers, for agents, tug companies, even pest control services and sometimes for the dockyard too. And it certainly means plenty of hard work for admiralty marshal Katherine Dawson.
In addition crew changes normally have to be arranged for arrested ships before departing under new ownership. Crews and superintendents may have to be put up in local hotels.
So it is understandable why Gibraltar wants ships to be arrested in its port, if they have to be arrested at all of course. But it is a commercial fact of life that sometimes owners do default on ship mortgages, ship suppliers do have legitimate claims against vessels, charterers have genuine grounds to arrest ships as security in disputes. Gibraltar is keen to stress the positive role it can play by providing a quick and efficient place to carry out an essential part of shipping business
Tony Christodoulides of law firm Marrache & Co says Gibraltar owes its popularity as a place to arrest ships to being a Common Law jurisdiction and its ability to move relatively quickly. The Gibraltar Supreme Court has a track record of hearing cases quickly and uncontested ones are dealt with in a matter of weeks. As with the English courts, it passes clean title to vessels sold by the admiralty marshal.
There are other factors too which make Gibraltar a good place for arrests.
It is of course well situated on the busy shipping lanes but it also offers low port charges for arrested vessels. In some other ports, dues can mount up very rapidly eating into the sum realised by a ship's sale. Moreover easy accessibility to London by air for crew changes and keen bunker and ship supply costs also play a part.
"Additionally, through the coming into force of the Civil Judgements and Jurisdiction Ordinance, it is now possible to arrest a vessel as security in respect of proceedings instituted elsewhere," said Raymond Triay of the Triay & Triay law firm. "This represents the single most important recent legal development."
Last year saw some 50 Admiralty actions, most of which resulted in Admiralty court sale.
This year shows all the signs of being a bad one for the main shipping markets with the dry bulk trades enduring the worst downturn for years while the crude oil tanker sector also appears to be heading for difficult times. "Admiralty work has always formed a significant part of our practice," said Mr. Triay. "Given the present state of the market this is so at an ever increasing rate."
There can be no doubt that Gibraltar's development as a cruise destination has been a major success story. The Rock's popularity with cruise passengers is such that the government is planning to implement limits on the number of vessels calling at any one time to keep the number of passengers down to a manageable level to guarantee customer satisfaction.
The chief executive of the Gibraltar Tourist Board, Tony Davis, concedes that it may seem rather strange to actually turn business away. The decision, however, makes sense as part of a strategy to secure the long-term future of the cruise business.
Over the past two years much emphasis has been put on improving the quality of the product on offer. The need to concentrate on standards and customer service was brought home in 1997 when the number of ship calls slumped to 99 and the total passengers visiting dropped to just over 70,000. The previous year had seen an all-time record of 139 calls and nearly 97,000 passengers.
The poor figures marked the end of a decade of, more or less, steady growth which saw vessel and passenger numbers more than double.
To be fair the decline was partly attributable to cruise lines switching itineraries away from Gibraltar for reasons completely unrelated to the Rock.
Nevertheless it was widely recognised that urgent action was needed to improve what had become a rather shabby image. Moreover a dispute between taxi and bus operators over the provision of tours and the standard of Rock tours had become major issues.
Much has changed since then. The appearance of the main shopping areas has been greatly improved by a pedestrianisation programme and the approach road from the passenger berth to town has been given a face-lift.
Crucially, Gibraltar now has a high standard cruise terminal. With works by local artists adorning the walls it was designed to provide passengers with a pleasant, neo-classical environment with a colour scheme evoking the Mediterranean. Importantly the terminal is capable of handling embarking and disembarking passengers.
The terminal was built quickly, using the shell of a former cargo shed, and has featured prominently in the aggressive marketing strategy Gibraltar has engaged in to win back the cruise trade.
Partly the promotional effort has involved attending trade fairs and talking to cruise operators. This campaign has not only involved government officials but agents have also been prominent in spreading the message that cruise lines should put Gibraltar in their programmes.
Other initiatives include multi-call discounts on the standard £2 per person Passenger Tax, ranging from 10 per cent for more than five calls to 100 per cent for home-ported vessels.
All this effort has not gone unnoticed by the cruise industry. Gibraltar won the DreamWorld Cruise Destination 98 award for the "most improved port facilities" in the Mediterranean and came runner-up in the "most receptive destination" category.
The promotional campaign has also borne more practical fruit. Last year the number of vessels was only four short of the 1996 record while passenger numbers passed the 90,000 mark.
This year the port is set to receive even more ships. Mr Davis says: "So far we have 183 confirmed bookings for 1999 and the actual figure is likely to be higher."
Gibraltar has teamed up with other Mediterranean cruise ports to form Medcruise (The Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports) an organisation dedicated to promoting standards at member ports and to jointly promoting the region's destinations.
The need to maintain standards is the motive behind Mr Davis's move to cap the number of calls. He wants to restrict the capacity of ships alongside at any one time to 3,500 passengers. In practice that means one very large vessel of the sort now coming into service with the major operators and a smaller ship.
That does not mean, Mr Davis points out, a 3,500-passengers-a-day limit as it is becoming common to have ships arrive in the morning and leave late afternoon to be followed by other vessels staying until late at night.
The measure is intended to avoid too much strain being put on Gibraltar's resources, especially of taxis and guides. That would mean disappointed cruise passengers and, ultimately, unhappy lines who could, once more, vote with their feet.
Last year may also turn out to have been significant for Gibraltar's plans to become more than just a destination but also a hub port where passengers join and leave home-ported ships. In November P&O's 700-berth Victoria turned round at Gibraltar with the airport playing a central role.
George Gaggero, deputy chairman of shipagent MH Bland, says the operation was a complete success because "everybody worked together, the port, agents, customs, immigration, taxis."
Three charter aircraft were used for the Victoria hubbing operation. Mr Davis says that Gibraltar proved it can provide a faultless turnaround service to cruise ships. Some passengers took just 27 minutes to get from their aircraft to onboard the ship. He said the line had acknowledged that nowhere else could do better.
At present there are no further cruise turnarounds planned but Mr Davis is hopeful that lines will now see that using Gibraltar as a base port is a realistic option.
Although there is no doubt that there has been massive progress in developing Gibraltar as a cruise destination Mr Davis cautions against complacency. There are issues that will need to be addressed to ensure the Rock's future in the cruise business.
The government is continuing its drive to improve the physical facilities for cruise passengers. Work is underway on improvements to the passenger terminal and on resurfacing the quays used by the cruise ships.
In the longer term, though, further substantial investment will be needed in terminal facilities.
In the short term, however, Gibraltar is now able to compete strongly as a cruise destination and offer a product which is increasingly attractive to repeat cruise passengers. It is also ready and able to act as a base port for cruise operators.
Gibraltar's large former naval dockyard with its three graving docks should be one of the pillars of an emerging, commercially based economy. Since the Ministry of Defence handed over the yard to civilian hands its history has been less than happy but the past year has witnessed a remarkable turn around in fortunes which has done much to boost optimism in the future of the port as a whole.
When Kvaerner abruptly decided to leave Gibraltar about two years ago it was difficult to be upbeat about the yard's prospects. The problems of the recent past, however, tended to make people forget what the dockyard had going for it - in the right hands.
Even though several operators failed to make a success of the yard, due at least in part to political and labour issues, it enjoys considerable competitive advantages. The basic facilities, the legacy of the Royal Navy, are in good condition and include a 270 metre dock and two smaller ones of 190 metres and 150 metres.
Other assets include 800 metres of deepwater berths for alongside work and 3,500 square metres of covered workshops. In addition a mainly dry sub-tropical climate is virtually ideal for shiprepair work which can be affected by adverse weather. A tidal range of just 1 metre means there are no tidal restrictions on vessels' movements.
In addition, of course, Gibraltar is right on one of the world's busiest sea lanes, used by some 70,000 ships each year. That means planned dockings can often be fitted into schedules without the need for expensive diversions. Its position also ensures the yard is well placed to accept emergency repair work following casualties in the Western Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic.
Put like that it is difficult to see how such a well-endowed yard could fail. But early last year prospects certainly looked bleak and the talk was of "one last chance".
Cammell Laird (CL), which had built up a strong shiprepair and conversion business on the Merseyside site of the former shipbuilder of the same name, took a 20-year renewable lease on the Gibraltar yard. It turned out to be the first move in a rapid expansion programme which has turned into the UK's largest shiprepairer.
On the Rock, CL has turned the dockyard into an instant success story. Operations director Tom Parry says the yard received nearly 400 enquiries during its first year of operation and about 150 of those led to actual contract, a very high "hit rate".
Major shipowners have been using the yard in the short time it has been back in operation including Cosco. CL has an agreement with the Chinese owner to work on its vessels if they require work while in the region although the yard would not be able to compete on price with the Chinese yards that do most of the work needed on the Cosco fleet.
Several units of the local fleet of bunker barges, tugs and similar craft have also spent spells in the yard since CL took over. Large grey ships, once such a common sight in Gibraltar, are once again being seen in the dockyard. It has won repair contracts for several British Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels. Mr. Parry sees this development as an important step in building a secure future for the yard.
So far work has been of a "bread and butter" shiprepair nature. This type of work implies fairly low margins and is vulnerable to fluctuations in the fortunes of the shipping markets. Mr. Parry notes some slacking off in the repair market during the early part of this year. He says: "Owners are deferring work right now rather than spending."
That is why CL is looking to undertake conversions. To do what it needed to upgrade the yard to ISO 9000 standard which it achieved in November. Since then it has been bidding for suitable projects.
They also plan to develop another niche market for which Gibraltar is particularly suited - the repair and refurbishment of "superyachts". These craft, which look more like small cruise liners than yachts, frequent the southern coast of Europe in summer and many of them switch to the Caribbean for the winter.
CL has already undertaken superyacht work and is marketing itself strongly in this sector. It also plans to invest in a movable cover for its smallest graving dock which will be used for work on these expensive vessels.
Already there has been speculation that CL may expand its capacity by bringing in a floating dock. That, though, would only make sense if the largest, panamax dock was being regularly used for conversions.
In the meantime they are investing in the future by taking on 20 apprentices and have set up a training facility. About 170 people work at the yard which, currently, does not use contractors.
In another vote of confidence in the long-term success of the Gibraltar facility, CL is basing its new riding crew operation Cammell Laird International at the yard.
All in all there has been an amazingly rapid change in fortunes which has had considerable beneficial knock-on effects on the port and consequently Gibraltar's economy.
There are few ports better situated than Gibraltar's to provide stores, spares and crew changes to the world's fleet. Over 5,000 vessels called at Gibraltar last year, mainly for bunkers, but with some 70,000 ships passing by every year there is plenty of scope to expand.
Extremely fierce competition between ship suppliers means Gibraltar offers some of the lowest prices anywhere. In fact the prices are so competitive that Paul Mifsud of ship supply firm James Molinary cannot understand how the handful of firms that remain can make realistic profits.
Mr Mifsud is determined, though, to keep the long-established firm going.
He has just set a deal to import provisions from Holland which he hopes will help his firm remain competitive.
While the number of ships coming into Gibraltar continues to grow an increasing number of vessels now take on stores and change crew members off-port limits. This has the advantage for owners that they do not need to come off hire but can pick up stores at approved rendezvous points just off the Rock.
Permission was first given for off-port limits storing in 1993 when 105 vessels used the services provided by a number of local companies using tugs and other craft. Last year 410 vessels were serviced off port limits and the number has risen further this year.
The Captain of the Port, John Prior, is careful to ensure that these operations are carried out safely.
At present there is a limit of four tonnes of cargo, but the Government is going to do away with limits. It is one of the first recommendations they are going to put in place following the setting up of a committee to make recommendations for future port operations.
Further increases in off-limits business is an aim of policy.
Gibraltar has emerged as the Western Mediterranean's biggest bunker port.
The boom in bunkering calls has greatly increased the number of vessels coming into the port but competition with other ports has pushed profit margins to very low levels.
Ten years ago 932 called at Gibraltar primarily to take bunkers. Last year the number was 3,275 and indications are volumes are still increasing. That equates to over 2.5 million tonnes of bunker fuel.
Those figures leave rival ports in the Strait of Gibraltar way behind. Algeciras on the other side of Gibraltar Bay handled 1.25 million tonnes and Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta handled 0.5 million tonnes.
The big increases in volume have occurred since 1995 when 1,631 ships called for bunkers. The largest player in the local bunker market is Cepsa (Gibraltar) which supplies fuel from Spanish oil company Cepsa's nearby refinery to Gibraltar using three bunker barges run by Gibraltar-based Maritime Gibraltar. It delivered about 1.5 million tonnes last year of which it supplied 620,000 tonnes to Shell Gibraltar and 360,000 tonnes to Peninsular Petroleum, in both cases for sale in Gibraltar.
The driving force of Cepsa (Gibraltar) is its chairman John Bassadone whose company Gibunco Holdings owns half of Cepsa (Gibraltar), half of Maritime Gibraltar and 100% of Peninsular. They have a good track record.
The Texaco-Chevron joint venture Fuel and Marine Marketing (FAMM) handled some 770,000 tonnes last year, up about 300,000 tonnes on the year before.
FAMM uses a shoreside tank facility, leased from the Ministry of Defence, and previously used by Shell. The King's Lines terminal is operated by Javaoil.
Until early last year Texaco, prior to the formation of FAMM, used Vemaoil Company's barges to take bunkers to vessels. Then it switched to Aegean Bunkering (Gibraltar) which operates three Panamanian-flag tankers.
Both Vemaoil, which still operates and sells bunkers directly, and Aegean are Greek owned companies. Aegean's operations director Apostolos Manitsas says that his company employs ten Gibraltarians on its vessels. In conjunction with the government Aegean has sent six locally recruited crew to the UK for training.
Sometimes the scene in Gibraltar harbour gives the impression that nothing has changed. A large Royal Fleet Auxiliary oiler can still on occasions be seen manoeuvring off the South Mole with, apparently, the aid of five naval tugs.
Appearances are very deceptive. Almost everything has changed. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) only keeps one tug in what was once a key strategic base. The other four tugs, albeit wearing naval black and stone, are operated by private companies. Three belong to TP Towage while the other is owned by Gibunco. And there is another operator with fleet of roughly similar size to TP's, Straits Towing.
There is no hard and fast division between towage and the provision of supplies. One of Straits' tugs, the Nicky, is primarily used for taking lube oil out to vessels while the company also operates two water barges.
TP has also been involved in carrying out crew changes and taking spare parts out to vessels.
Agent and stevedore, MH Bland, also operates one tug which is used for taking stores, spares and provisions out to ships in the anchorage and to the increasing number of ships taking stores off port limits.
Gibunco's ex-MOD tug Sealyham is mainly used for naval movements, of which there are still quite a number despite the military run-down.
For many years commercial towage in Gibraltar was undertaken by UK-based Alexandra Towing. About four years ago Alexandra became part of Australian-owned Howard Smith which decided in January last year to pull out of Gibraltar.
In retrospect Howard Smith's decision seems strange though it was taken at a time of considerable uncertainty over the future, with the dockyard closed and its prospects hanging in the balance. Since the beginning of last year Cammell Laird has taken over the dockyard and consequently shipping movements at Gibraltar have continued to increase.
Nevertheless Howard Smith did get out, offering its local manager Thomas Peñalver the chance to take over the Gibraltar operation. Mr Penalver established TP Towage which currently operates three tugs.
The result of this competition is that the port is now very well served by tugs and that it can serve as a base for salvage operations. TP Towage has already attended casualties while the presence of an active shiprepairer in the port bolsters Gibraltar's status as a growing towage and salvage centre.
Both the two main tug operators profess optimism for the future. TP has experienced a busy first year and is seriously looking at acquiring an additional tug.
Gibraltar's agents are probably busier than they have ever been. The boom in the bunker trade means that, on average, about 15 ships call at Gibraltar every day.
The port is certainly well served by agents with a number of long-established local firms as well as two international groups - Barwil and Inchcape. Owners calling at Gibraltar have little to complain about as competition has pushed agency charges to very low levels. Those calling just for bunkers are being offered a package including agency services at no additional cost.
Not surprisingly agents are less than happy at a situation which has seen their margins plummet. Paul Imossi, of Lloyd's Agent Smith Imossi, notes that fees for a bunker call have dropped from around £600 to less than £250.
George Gaggero, deputy chairman of MH Bland, makes the same point. "There are a lot of ships coming here now but it is hard for agents. Margins have been pushed down in the past year," he says.
Mr Imossi cautions that the port has become very dependent on bunkers and if volumes were ever to dip agents would be in for a particularly lean time.
Fortunately there are other sectors which are looking brighter. Cruise calls are now back to the levels of the mid-nineties. The agents have been closely involved with the government in promoting Gibraltar as a cruise destination. Several of them have attended international trade shows as part of a marketing drive that appears to be paying off.
Worries remain however. The issue of whether cruise operators and passengers should be able to choose between taxis and coaches for Rock tours still simmers.
MH Bland operates tour coaches as part of a wide range of activities extending from agency and stevedoring to running the cable car to the top of the Rock. Mr Gaggero stresses, though, that the agents see the issue as being about the freedom of choice of the customers - the cruise lines.
There is also a feeling among agents that more lines need to be attracted to Gibraltar. This year three vessels calling regularly make up a large proportion of total calls.
Agents are however also able to benefit from increased activity in the port as resulting from the reopening of the dockyard by Cammell Laird. According to the Port Department, 66 ships called for repairs in 1998 but that number is set to be much higher this year with the yard back in full operation.
Off-port-limits storing and crew changing is another area that is growing, with some agents operating their own craft. In the longer term any development of a container port would also bring the prospect of more work for agents.
Increased ship arrests has also helped. Work required on arrested vessels can be considerable, including arranging crew changes and hotel accommodation.
In the short term, however, agents are likely to continue to struggle against downward pressures on their margins.
|Gibraltar Tourism and Transport Department|
|Duke of Kent House, Cathedral Square, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 74950||- Fax: (350) 74943|
|TP Towage Company Ltd|
|Berth 11, North Mole, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 41912||- After hours: (350) 72758/ (350)58236000||- Email: email@example.com|
|Marine Service Shipping (Gibraltar) Ltd|
|Suite 204, Neptune House, Marina Bay, PO Box 446, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 73606||- Fax: (350) 76562|
|Triay & Triay|
|28 Irish Town, PO Box 15, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 72020||- Fax: (350) 72270|
|M.H. Bland & Co. Ltd|
|1st Floor, Cloister Building, PO Box 554, Market Lane, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 79478||- Fax: (350) 71608||- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Intra Marine Services Limited|
|Suite 2, Horse Barrack Court, 9/15 Horse Barrack Lane, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 40714||- Fax: (350) 40715||- Email: email@example.com|
|James Molinary Ltd|
|40 Irish Town, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 78881 /40645||- Fax: (350) 75334||- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Smith Imossi & Co Ltd|
|47 Irish Town, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 78644||- Fax: (350) 77838|
|Cammell Laird Gibraltar|
|PO Box 858, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 40354 /59400||- Fax: (350) 44404||- Email: email@example.com|
|Cepsa (Gibraltar) Ltd|
|Europort, Building 7, PO Box 51, Gibraltar||Tel: (350) 76170||- Fax: (350) 76195|