TS Laevad to begin operating with four ferries after 5th not found
TS Laevad, who will take over ferry traffic between the Estonian mainland and its two biggest western islands one week from Saturday, was unable to procure a proper fifth, extra ferry and will begin operating with just four ships on Oct. 1. This situation could leave TS Laevad in a bind should anything happen to one of their ferries working at full capacity, as they wouldn't have a backup ship with which to temporarily replace it.
TS Laevad, a subsidiary of the state-owned Port of Tallinn, will begin serving the lines connecting Estonia's western islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa to its mainland beginning on Oct. 1. According to the contract signed with the state, the company had to confirm the availability of five ferries, however a suitable fifth vessel was never found.
As a result, it will not be possible to run an extra ferry each day during the Saaremaa Rally, taking place Oct. 6-9, which will make arrival to and departure from Estonia's largest island during its second-largest event of the year difficult.
Beginning in October, the mainland-Saaremaa line will be served by the Hiiumaa, the largest of the four ferries, and the Harilaid, while the mainland-Hiiumaa route will be served, in turn, by the St. Ola and Regula.
"During the rally we will bring in the St. Ola from the Hiiumaa line, but we are requesting everyone going to the Saaremaa Rally to go not on Friday afternoon but on Saturday," explained TS Laevad CEO Kaido Padar to ERR's online news portal. "The schedule has been set with three ferries serving the line on Thursday — Harilaid with an open schedule while the others will work on schedule. It is worth taking that extra day and enjoying Saaremaa, and coming back [to the mainland] Saturday night after the rally. But nobody will be left on the pier."
This temporary change means that on Thursday, Oct. 6, only one ferry will be serving the mainland-Hiiumaa route as the St. Ola temporarily returns to its old route that weekend.
Padar stressed the fact that travelers should expect to increase their travel time in October, as a new ticket machine system will be implemented as well. All new systems, however, require a period of breaking in. TS Laevad recomends buying all tickets in advanced in lieu of hoping to be able to buy a ticket at the harbor, particularly on weekends. All schedule changes will be reflected first and foremost on the ticket sales homepage as well.
Trip to Hiiumaa to take longer
The St. Ola, which will be rented from Vjatšeslav Leedo's company, takes longer to make the trip than TS Laevad's own Regula. Including loading and unloading times, it takes the Regula one and a half hours and the St. Ola one hour and 45 minutes to make one trip.
Padar recommends buying ferry tickets to Hiiumaa in advance as well, as things may take longer than usual at the port.
The Piret and Leiger, the two new ferries which were to take over the mainland-Hiiumaa line beginning Oct. 1, are still waiting in the Turkish and Polish shipyards where they were built. While Poland is expected to hand over the Piret in mid-Ocober, Padar is unenthusiastic about when the Leiger might be finished. Deadlines have been extended week after week for months already, as the quality of the work done on it has not been good enough for TS Laevad to accept the vessel.
"My naive dream is that both [new ferries] are serving the route by the beginning of November," admitted Padar. "Work continues."