Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) met with the municipal mayors of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa Municipalities on Friday to discuss the purchase of an additional vessel, deciding together that buying a new ferry would be a more reasonable solution than buying a second-hand vessel.
"I wanted to see what kind of ship the islanders prefer, and we reached a joint decision that building a new ship would be best for both Saaremaa and Hiiumaa," Aas said according to a Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications press release, adding that it is important that island residents get the solution they want.
Under deliberation was a ten-year-old vessel that would have to be refitted, but could enter service on its island route next summer.
The second option, the importance of which was also highlighted by island residents, was to purchase a brand new vessel, which could be built according to the needs of Saaremaa residents and could also be used as a back-up ferry on the Hiiumaa route. The new vessel would also be more environmentally friendly.
Representatives of the islands' local governments jointly acknowledged that they were prepared to wait for another three summers to make the currently good ferry connection even better.
"Saaremaa residents are rather satisfied with the ferry connection currently available," Saaremaa Municipal Mayor Madis Kallas said. "There are lines during peak season, but they are not insurmountable. Rather, we're talking about making a good service very good. Considering the ferry connection and solutions of recent years, it definitely isn't a problem for the community of Saaremaa that the new ferry will arrive on the route another three summers from now."
The new ferry to be bought is expected to enter service on the route in fall 2022. The new vessel is to meet the preferences of Saaremaa residents, and as it will have a low draught, it will also be able to help out on the Hiiumaa route as needed as well. The new ship will help improve year-round passenger transport to the islands as well as meet Estonia's climate policy goals.
In the meantime, recent years' solutions will continue to be used on the ferry routes connecting Saaremaa and Hiiumaa to the Estonian mainland.
The number of passengers traveling to Saaremaa has been consistently increasing in recent years, which is why it is important to find a permanent and stable transport solution.
Editor: Aili Vahtla