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Do US naval visits really leave €1 million in cash? But little of this disapproval towards NATO ships sticks with those in business, who see military visits as yet another form of tourism that reaps great economic benefits. This year alone, Malta received 76 visits from 53 different vessels, many of them in transit towards Libya or occupied in the mass evacuation that took place in March. Frigates, submarines and destroyers spent up to as many as five days berthed in Valletta, with the largest – the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean which can carry over 1,000 crew – spending an entire week. According to a US embassy cable published on Wikileaks, former US ambassador Douglas Kmiec cites a NATO request for some six ship visits “to reacquaint Malta with [their] economic and associational value”. But how much cash can a military vessel really put into the economy at a time? Philip Fenech, the vice-president of the Chamber and SMEs and a spokesperson for Paceville business owners estimates that an “average-sized warship” leaves €1 million in the economy. “It’s not just entertainment, because there is also ship chandling and other services for the vessel itself. I think it leaves bigger dividends than one thinks.” Fenech says he is aware of the uneasiness about increasing naval visits to Malta. “Incidents are bound to happen in any area of the leisure industry when things get busy. It happens even in football, if you take the Malta-Croatia match as an example when the away supporters starting breaking up the stadium seats. “But naval tourism is really part of the marketing mix and it actually is a back-up whenever other segments suffer,” Fenech says. There is little research available on the web, but the Queensland Tourism Authority in Australia claims military vessels potentially have “even greater economic benefits” than cruise ships. Like cruise ships, military vessels utilise similar services and military personnel avail themselves of tourism and R&R opportunities. Military vessels will also pay for towage, pilotage, special fendering, ships agents, water, fuel, stores and maintenance. Spending rates are also similar to cruise ship passengers but the time in port is usually longer – between three to five days. With as many as 5,000 personnel on a large aircraft carrier, larger vessels can provide an enormous injection of capital. In May 2001, the Port of Townsville jointly a detailed economic impact analysis of a United States naval ship on the Townsville regional economy. The key findings were an average AUD$376 (€280) spend for each US Navy personnel per 24 hours. While the vessel was in port, personnel spent 71% in the city. Based on a five-day stay, the study estimated that USS Essex with approximately 5,000 crew spent €4 million in North Queensland – and this in turn generated an €2 million in regional pay packets. So Fenech’s estimate may not be entirely off the mark. Naval visits certainly have attractive benefits, but they also raise the question of whether Malta abides by its Constitutional maxim to “actively working for peace” when NATO ships engaged in military conflicts are welcomed.