First new ferry won't enter service by Jan. 1
The handover of the Leiger, the first of the four new ferries ordered by Estonian ferry operator TS Laevad, a subsidiary of the state-owned Port of Tallinn, can happen on Dec. 15 at the earliest, in which case the ferry will be unable to enter into service by Jan. 1, reported daily Eesti Päevaleht. The four new ferries, ordered from shipyards in Turkey and Poland, were originally expected to enter into service by Oct. 1.
"It is known that it takes a vessel 21 days to complete the journey from the Sefine shipyard in Turkey to Estonia," wrote the newspaper. "Consequently, based on that timetable, the Leiger would arrive be here by Jan. 5, and so it won't be able to begin operating on Jan. 1 when the contract on the substitute vessel ends."
TS Laevad is currently renting three substitute vessels from the privately held Saaremaa Shipping Company, operator of the subsidized ferry routes connecting Estonia's largest western islands with its mainland through the end of September. The contract for renting the three vessels — the Hiiumaa, St. Ola and the Harilaid — is set to expire at the end of this year.
Eesti Päevaleht argued that after Jan. 1, only two of the older ferries, the Hiiumaa and the Regula, will be left at the new operator's disposal for operation on the Muhu/Saaremaa and Hiiumaa routes. The agreement on St. Ola can be extended no further than the end of November, whereas the agreement on the Harilaid has been concluded until the end of October.
The longest agreement concerns the ferry Ionas, sailing between the mainland and the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa, which has been concluded for two months with the option to extend it until the end of Deember. Ionas does not qualify for an ice class, however, which could mean difficulties in using it in January and February in the event of a colder winter.
The Port of Tallinn's Marketing and Communication Director Sirle Arro stated at the end of September that the Sefine shipyard in Turkey was still preparing for the handover of the Leiger.
"Unfortunately, we are apparently justified in saying that the ferry will not enter into service in October because the handover has not yet happened," Arro had told BNS at the time.
She said that after formal acceptance of the ferry, the formalities required for leaving would take a few more days, while the voyage from Turkey to Estonia would take an estimated three weeks or even longer, given unpredictable fall weather. After that, some additional time would be needed in Estonia before the vessel could enter into regular service, she added.
Arro also noted that the Turkish shipbuilder had wanted to hand over the vessel earlier but TS Laevad had refused on the grounds that its systems did not meet the future owner's expectations.