The Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam) has said it is vital that passenger traffic between Estonia and Finland continues, to ensure that Estonians returning home to Estonia in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic can do so via Finland, and people living in neighboring countries can do the same via the Estonian transit corridor.
Measures instituted by the Estonian government last last week included a ban on cruise ships calling in at Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia until May 1, as well as the suspension of the Tallinn-Stockholm cruise route.
Border controls are to be reestablished meaning that foreign nationals not resident in Estonia will generally not be able to enter the country, and Estonia's wwestern ilands are closed to visitors who are not residents, even Estonian citizens, for the time being.
While cargo lines are still running, shipping company Tallink also discontinued its service between Tallinn and Helsinki for the time being, starting Tuesday, March 17, the same day Estonia establishes the border controls.
However, the Port of Tallinn says it is vital a sea-route remain open to passengers as well as cargo, on both the Tallinn-Helsinki and Muuga-Vuosaari routes.
"It is vital that the passenger traffic between Estonia and Finland on both the Tallinn-Helsinki and Muuga-Vuosaari routes continues, to ensure that Estonians can return home via Finland and people living in neighboring countries can return via the Estonian transit corridor, and that freight transport is ensured also," the Port of Tallinn said Monday, according to BNS.
Company's board said that nevertheless, due to a decline in passenger numbers, it is likely that schedules of ships will be futher cut by the passenger ferry operators.
"The ban on cruise ship calls until May 1 directly concerns the cancellation of four scheduled ship calls. As of today, the cruise companies have not informed us of the cancellation of any more visits, but given global developments, these are likely to arrive," the company said.
The Port of Tallinn also noted that the economic effects of the virus on cargo shipping might actually have a larger effect on the overall economy.
"As freight traffic is maintained and ship calls continue, interruptions in passenger transport only concern passenger charges, which represent a smaller proportion of the revenue in the passenger harbors' business segment," Port of Tallinn went on.
Regarding the cargo harbors' segment, the special measures are most likely to affect roll-on-roll-off (ro-ro) cargo, as all passenger ships are roll-on-roll-off-passenger (ro-pax)-type vessels, meaning that they carry both passengers and ro-ro cargo, and are thus directly affected by possible downtime and reduced schedules of passenger routes.
"As regards containers, we see a longer-term negative impact due to the slowdown in trade," the company said.
The domestic ferry lines traveling to the two largest islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, operated by Port of Tallinn subsidiary TS Laevad, are to continue running a stripped-down schedule for both cargo and island residents' journeys home, BNS reports.
The Port of Tallinn management board says that the islands restrictions will not have a significant impact on it, as its fixed fee is not linked to the number of calls and covers all fixed costs including crew salaries.
So far as the wider impact of the pandemic and any accompanying or general economic downturn on the Port of Tallinn, this will be more significant, but cannot be objectively assessed yet, the company says.
The Port of Tallinn says it will take the necessary measures and cooperate fully with the authorities to achieve the common global goal of preventing the spread of the virus and protecting human lives and well-being.
Together with its operators, the port company is to analyze the impact of current developments and prepare for different crisis scenarios. The Port of Tallinn adds that it will offer its passenger ferry operators the opportunity to use the harbor quayside facilities without charge.
Editor: Andrew Whyte