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Saaremaa ferry needs extra departures, passengers want tighter schedule

The TS Laevad-owned ferry Tõll serves the Virtsu-Kuivastu route.
The TS Laevad-owned ferry Tõll serves the Virtsu-Kuivastu route. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Through March 6, the ferry route connecting Saaremaa to the Estonian mainland via Muhu is running on a one-ferry schedule with departures scheduled at an interval of an hour and ten minutes.

Long lines often tend to crop up on weekends, however, as there is a high volume of travelers to the Western Estonian island. Extra departures are arranged then, however the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications nonetheless don’t consider it necessary to tighten the regular departure schedule even despite the wishes of residents of the island, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Whether influenced by curiosity about the new ferries or the stability in scheduled connections they have provided, January saw an influx of an additional 8,000 passengers and 2,000 vehicles traveling to Saaremaa and Hiiumaa compared to the same month last year.

Due to the large numbers of travelers, extra departures have needed to be added on the Kuivastu-Virtsu line connecting mainland Estonia to Saaremaa via the smaller island of Muhu, as departures on the weekend schedule are spaced an hour and ten minutes apart, leading to lines forming at the respective ports.

According to TS Laevad CEO Kaido Padar, additional departures are added when long lines have formed at the ports.

Taivo Linnamägi, head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications’ Aviation and Maritime Department, noted that these decisions are being made operatively and do not require long chains of command, and so they can confirm that responses are prompt when required by demand. "There is initially no direct reason to add these [additional] departures to the schedule," he concluded. "This isn’t supported by the average passenger load factor."

The Saare County government, on the other hand, is of the opinion that in a situation where a second ferry is already sitting in port, manned and ready to go, additional departures should just be scheduled ahead during peak travel times.

"I agree that people would feel much more secure if these departures were already scheduled," noted Saare County government development adviser Karl Tiitson.

A number of travelers at the port in Kuviastu on Sunday likewise felt that the ferries should serve the people and operate when needed.

At least two additional departures were added to the Kuivastu-Virtsu line on Sunday. On Feb. 23, however, the day before Independence Day, e-tickets to all five departures from Virtsu have already been sold out and not a single additional departure has been added to the schedule for that day.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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