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Viking Sun job welcomed in Malta

With five Iranian naval vessels, an LPG carrier, an Acomarit OBO and U.S. naval ship Resolute among the repair work at Malta ship repair facility, Malta Drydocks (MDD), the arrival of Cunard's much damaged Royal Viking Sun added a final fillip to employment prospects at a facility which is currently under strong political pressure to make itself pay.

MR/EN1s visit to Malta took place just days before the cruise liner departed from Drydock No. 6, to which she was towed at the end of May following a collision with a coral reef in the Red Sea while en route to the Jordanian Port of Aqaba. Repairs, totaling around $5 million, were largely due to extensive flooding, but also included fabrication of a new bulbous bow and in situ repairs to the adjacent bow area and starboard bilge keel. Extensive electrical work was also involved. More than 75 electrical motors including A/C compressor motors, each weighing 2.5 tons, were removed and packed for transportation to the original manufacturers for special cleaning and treatment.

Both stabilizers were also in need of attention. The port side unit was completely removed for overhaul, and special attention was paid to alignment. The starboard stabilizer, damaged during the grounding, was also removed. Eighty-nine crew cabins, including furniture, furnishings, carpeting and electrical fittings, needed to be refurbished and extensive areas of insulation replaced in floors and bulkheads. Other work involved blasting certain hull areas, open deck swimming pools and painting of the hull from the veranda deck to the keel. Navigation equipment was also overhauled and ballast, fresh water and sewage tanks cleaned, blasted and painted.

Repairs to Royal Viking Sun were the latest in a long line of successfully completed contracts for Cunard and other cruise line operators, according to MDD's Council Secretary Lawrence Zammit, who claims a 100 percent default-free record for such deals. The vessel was due to depart along with Acomarit's Chickasaw, which had undergone emergency repairs including the replacement of shaft seals, and Resolute, which had received hull treatment and boiler overhaul. As well as the task of refilling the drydocks with repair work, MDD directors and most particularly Chairman Sammy Meilaq continue to fight longstanding political battles over the yard's financial viability. Most significant is the fight to retain the facility's smallest drydock — the No. 1 dock — which, due to its position and means of access, is seen by many in the local community as an ideal location for a pleasure boat marina. Malta Finance Minister John Dalli has suggested that the dock be traded off against long-standing tax debts, but Mr. Meilaq is standing firm, agreeing only to part with the dock if another is provided. As MDD is in the process of merging with another government owned concern, Malta Shipyards, (MDD prefers the term 'takeover'), increased pressure can be placed on the need to retain a smaller dock as more work on smaller vessels is envisaged. "Conversions will be an ideal means of making best use of all skills and this can prove highly profitable work," explained Anthony de Gray, MDD's deputy commercial and sales manager.

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