Tallink's cruise ship Romantika will make special trip to Sassnitz, Germany, to bring back people who are unable to get to Estonia and Latvia due to the closing of the borders due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Paavo Nõgene, Chairman of the Tallink Management Board, said on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. Tallink's Romantika will depart from the port of Riga and will carry goods, car and Germans trapped in Latvia who want to go home,
The trip to Sassnitz, Germany, will last 24 hours and everyone will have secured cabins, Nõgene said. On Wednesday evening at 23:55, the ship will leave Sassnitz and pick up Estonians and Latvians with cars and then go to Riga. The original plan to go to Ventspils was changed to Riga on Tuesday afternoon.
Tickets can be purchased on Tallink's website and the fare is symbolic to encourage people to get on the ferry. The difference will be compensated by the two countries.
"The journey will last for 16 hours and from there we will be discussing whether the Romantika ship will continue to operate services to avoid land borders between Lithuania and Poland and to operate freight between Estonia and Germany," said Nõgene.
Nõgene added Estonians who have already traveled to Sweden now have two options to return home.
"One is from Stockholm via Turku or Helsinki and from there to Tallinn. And there is also an exceptional opportunity to come from Kappelskär port with a cargo ship bound for Paldiski. All ships are provided with food and drink, large cabin spaces are available," he said.
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) added on Tuesday at 3 p.m., a car ferry from Sassnitz will also depart for Klaipeda, Lithuania, which will take 250 cars and the same number of passengers.
The Minister said the target group is all three Baltic States, so this ferry will not be able to accommodate all those who wish. In this case, two border crossings (from Lithuania to Latvia and from Latvia to Estonia) also have to be considered.
While a deal was struck late on Sunday to allow transit via Poland, which closed its borders at midnight, ahead of the Baltic Countries who did so overnight Monday to Tuesday, a promised escorted convoy failed to materialize, leaving the Estonians, plus a much larger Lithuanian contingent, trapped on the border close to Frankfurt an der Oder.
Eye-witnesses caught up in the impasse said Polish riot police had arrived wielding rubber truncheons in response to Lithuanian citizens getting increasingly frustrated at the situation.
Reinsalu said apart from those on package holidays sold by travel agents, there are currently less than 300 incidents of Estonians trapped abroad due to trave;l restrictions. He said, however, these are the number of registered cases and the actual number is likely to be in the thousands.
Editor: Helen Wright