There'll be no shortage of hire cars this summer. | Javier Coll


It's the same story as last year. Thousands of hire cars are being shipped to the Balearics, but the regional tourism ministry won't know for sure how many. Given what shipping companies are saying, though, an estimate of 90,000 is being put on the total. This figure brings with it warnings of Majorca's roads being jammed with hire cars. It was the case last summer, however, that not all of these vehicles ever left their car parks: there were too many of them.

The ministry's register has 48,000 vehicles, but the director-general, Pilar Carbonell, is once more criticising the lack of cooperation by a large number of companies. They are not letting the government know how many cars there are, so the ministry will respond by stepping up inspections between April and September. The problem for the ministry, though, is having enough inspectors.

Proceedings have been started against companies which breach regulations and don't register cars. Fines can be as much as 150,000 euros, though half a dozen proceedings are currently in the system which attract fines around a tenth of this.

There has been a particular early rush to bring cars to the island because of the threat of strikes by dockworkers. The Baleària and Trasmediterránea shipping companies have both reported that the ports in Barcelona and Valencia have been chock-a-block with cars.

The two hire-car business associations agree that there are too many cars in Majorca and are urging members to register vehicles with the ministry. "This is the only way to avoid chaos," says the Aevab association.

Meanwhile, the government's consumer affairs department is saying that large companies are refusing to sign up to its code of practice, one to which Aevab and fifteen companies are signatories. The department is going to be doing its own inspections by monitoring websites and visiting facilities.