Ship sent to return Estonians trapped in Europe due in Riga midnight

Foot passengers boarding the Romantika via a car deck in Riga Wednesday night.
Foot passengers boarding the Romantika via a car deck in Riga Wednesday night. Source: Tallink

A vessel sent from Estonia to retrieve Estonian citizens wishing to come home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, who had been stranded after being denied entry into Poland, set sail last night for Sassnitz, Germany and is due to return to Riga at midnight tonight.

The ship, the Romantika, operated by Estonian shipping company Tallink, will also carry citizens of the other two Baltic States, Latvia and Lithuania, who had been in the same predicament.

Tallink is also running a line between Estonia and Sassnitz from midnight tonight to take others who may still be trapped and do not make it to the Romantika.

A total of around 470 people and 150 cars was registered for the journey, necessitated by Poland closing its borders on Sunday at midnight, ahead of Estonia which did so 48 hours later.

An offer to provide an escorted convoy for Estonian citizens through Poland on Monday failed to materialize, leaving dozens stranded on the German-Polish border.

Paavo Nõgene, Tallink CEO, said the Romantika left Riga Tuesday night at 11.55 p.m., carrying cargo and also 35 German nationals who had been stuck in Latvia and wished to return to Germany.

Tickets were available on the Tallink website at a symbolic fee, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

While the Romantika's complement would be 2,000 passengers normally, there was not sufficient crew available for the Saasnitz trip to take this number Nõgene said, adding that the precise volume of cars was not known, but the capacity on board would be from 260-400

Tallink is still running its Star vessel, which before the crisis plied its trade between Tallinn and Helsinki, to continue the return trip to Sassnitz and can make voyages scheduled through to April 10, Nõgene said. Ten cars can be taken each way alongside commercial trucks.

"There will be 15 round trips, which means we can bring at least 150 cars during this period. If there are fewer trucks on a given day, we can increase the number of cars," said Nõgene.

The first Star voyage heads off from Tallinn at midnight tonight for Sassnitz; the subsequent trips will be from Paldiski.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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