As shipping costs rise, Virtu Ferries says importers are turning to Sicily

A number of retailers and importers are turning to the Sicilian market for their supplies as pre-COVID-19 freight costs are maintained on the ferry to the neighboring island despite increased global shipments, the company says who operates the service.

Lower freight costs are also offered to small and medium-sized businesses, Virtu Ferries said.

The ferry company says it aims to help emerging businesses in the belief that “cutting costs in the current situation is essential for repositioning post-COVID-19”.

Importers sourcing products from Italy, and in particular Sicily, have not seen an increase in freight costs from pre-COVID levels, the company said, adding that this was “firmly contrary to the global trend”.

Managing Director Henri Saliba was unable to provide statistics on companies moving to Sicily to source supplies and reduce transport costs.

But he said ‘a number of not-so-frequent freight customer bookings were noticed’, while small businesses and the catering industry ‘were asking questions about the neighboring market’.

“There has certainly been a surge of interest in Sicily from local retailers, importers and SMEs to serve their customers at a cheaper rate and with faster delivery,” Saliba said.

“It makes sense given the price hikes on everyone’s lips and also the problems with delivery delays, not only for food, but also in all areas, and even for car parts, for example.”

Virtu Ferries referred to economic forecasts of rising prices for most basic commodities, including food and daily necessities, largely due to global increases in shipping costs and other factors such than the pandemic.

He cited reports of freight costs for a container rising from around €2,000 to €17,000 and leading to a 500% increase in the price of some products.

But Saliba’s message was: “If you try to do your best, you may be able to cushion these increases.”

With the Sicilian market just 90 minutes away, it could be “considered an extension of ours”, he said.

The company said some hotels and restaurants have resorted to importing from Sicily to counter rising local food prices.

But the Malta Hotel and Restaurant Association said hotels and restaurants generally do not directly import their own consumer items and it is not worth creating their own supply chain once it does. was already established.

A food and beverage importer and distributor who spoke to Malta Time also greeted the request with skepticism.

He said the major problem for importers was an eightfold increase in the cost of freight from Asia, rather than a particularly steep increase from ports in Europe.

“Importers importing from Europe have not raised prices,” he said. “Prices have increased from all suppliers, but… prices have increased for everyone and Sicily is no exception.

“This is great publicity for Virtu Ferries and another blow for us importers!”

Asked how the company was able to reduce prices in the current climate, Saliba explained that after launching a second vessel during COVID-19, he had sufficient capacity and could afford “to opt for the volumes”.

He also floated the idea that Italy could import larger quantities of products from the Far East and supply Malta with its Chinese imports.

“Importers should look at all possibilities to cut costs,” Saliba said.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support us

Comments are closed.