State to Assert Control Over Saaremaa and Hiiumaa Ferry Connection
With three years left on the contract held by the longtime sole operator of the ferry routes connecting the mainland with the two largest islands, the state is moving in to end magnate Vjatšeslav Leedo's monopoly, a daily reported.
This autumn, the Ministry of Economic Affairs plans to propose to the Cabinet that the ships serving the line be defined as strategic infrastructure, analogous to gas pipelines or railway tracks, and task one state company - Eesti Loots is one option - with procuring four ferries, reported Postimees. "In effect, the Elektriraudtee passenger railway scheme will be repeated - the state will acquire the infrastructure and then find an operator at a public procurement," wrote the daily.
Leedo is both praised for the amount he has invested into Saaremaa Laevakompanii over the years but also criticized for having too much influence and being able to get the state to do his bidding.
Ten years ago, ministers attempted to pry the route from his grip while the current minister of economic affairs Juhan Parts was prime minister. But there wasn't enough time. Meelis Atonen, the economy minister then, told the paper: "We didn't have time to build anything and there weren't available ferries on the market. We were in a bind. Leedo essentially made a laughingstock of the state," he said, by sending proxy companies to bid for the contract at a tender.