Helicopter Services Malta (HSM, Malta Int'l) has called for a tender to reintroduce a service between Malta Int'l and Gozo to be cancelled, claiming that its technical specifications are discriminatory, the Times of Malta has reported.

The private charter and maintenance company, which pursues a niche in repairs to yacht-based helicopters and obtained its own Air Operator's Certificate in Malta in 2018, asked the island-state's Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB) to “cancel the tender and re-issue the call in order to allow a wider possibility of participation” in competing to provide the service.

“The technical specifications indicated in the call are discriminatory and are also a barrier to competition as they limit the possibility of participation in this call,” the company claimed.

The minimum requirements are restrictive as the specifications restrict the types of aircraft that can provide the service, the company said, insisting that “the objectives of the call may be achieved by various types of aircraft” and “a wider variety of modalities of operation”. It also pointed out an “error” in the tender as it called for night operations, which are not allowed according to transport ministry regulations.

The service would involve government subsidies as it is not thought to be economically viable. Air Malta's now-defunct subsidiary Malta Air Charter operated a helicopter service to Gozo for ten years but mounting losses forced to it to stop in 2004. Spanish company Heli Sureste took over but abandoned the route in 2006. Harbour Air Malta deployed seaplanes between Malta's Grand Harbour and Gozo between 2007 and 2012. The Gozo helicopter pad at Xewkija is maintained by Malta's Ministry for Gozo but has not been used for years.

When the government launched a feasibility study on the reintroduction of a helicopter service in February 2019, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi named state-owned Malta MedAir as being interested in the route, the Times of Malta reported at the time.

Now, following Helicopter Services Malta's objection, the tender must be suspended until the PCRB finds a way forward, civil aviation sources told the newspaper, or the board can be challenged in court.