After a 10 year break, discussions are underway to relaunch the Saaremaa ferry line to Ventspils in Latvia which closed in 2008 due to low demand. While a new operator for the line was not found last year, Saaremaa has not given up hope.
The line was terminated more than ten years ago, but the service has been missed in both countries. It was active during 2005-2008 and used by about 60,000 passengers.
"This year, it's not only a memory. For some, it is a very current topic today. There are tourists, especially foreign tourists of course, that come to the tourist info center and ask when is the next ship going? We get these requests every summer and I think every week, we have a couple," tourist specialist Kristina Mägi said.
In 2008 there were too few passengers to keep the service alive and it was closed down.
The former chief executive of Saaremaa's Shipping Company Tõnis Rihvk said at the time, it was clear that it was not feasible to keep it as a commercially viable line. "Then we were backed by the Ventspils freeport and the city of Ventspils. And what was missing, was that small thing, that today the municipality is ready to offer. I believe that when they figure out the finances, the rest will be only a technical question," Rihvk told.
Today Saaremaa Municipality is ready to give the need amount of funding. Also, the Ventspils freeport which at the time supported the line is interested in reopening it. Even though a new operator for the Saaremaa-Latvia line wasn't found last year, Saaremaa hasn't given up yet and is still trying.
Saaremaa's assistant governor Kristiina Maripuu said the main issue has been the fact that there hasn't been a suitable ship.
"I don't think that it's reasonable to repeat the procurement that fell through last year but to create a bigger picture. But the fact that the interest has remained and the wish is there and that there is a practice from ten years ago shows it is possible. So, when we speak about the next season, for example, it would be ideal."
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright