Tallink would solve Finnish travel restriction with testing requirement

Tallink CEO Paavo Nõgene.
Tallink CEO Paavo Nõgene. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallink hopes to solve the closed cross-border travel between Estonia and Finland with a negative test requirement. The company also believes a test requirement could be used for travel for labor across Europe, said Tallink CEO Paavo Nõgene.

Nõgene spoke to ETV's political discussion show "Esimene stuudio" and said that Finland closed its borders as it fears the spread of a new virus mutation. He thinks the problem would be solved by establishing a negative test requirement.

"We think it could be solved by people testing themselves before boarding the ship and arriving in FInland. I hope this solution is implemented in some form and an agreement is made. I know there are discussions between different authorities of the two countries," Nõgene said on Thursday evening.

Due to legislation, the Finnish state cannot establish a restriction on arrivals, which would be determined by the travelers health data. This means there is not way to establish a negative test requirement. The shipping company however can and Nõgene noted that Tallink has already made a proposal.

When it comes to travel between Estonia and Finland, the main issue is Estonia's infection rate per 100,000 people over last 14 days - 521.66 (as of January 28 - ed), seven times as high as that of Finland's (72.31). Nõgene noted that behavior and discipline is key when it comes to restrictions.

According to Nõgene, the Finns are a responsible people and follow restrictions. "When we established a mask-wearing requirement on our ships, the Finns followed the restriction far better. Unfortunately, it is stuck in us that we have reached this situation," he noted.

The crisis will not break Tallink this year

The Tallink CEO did not publish what the current restrictions will cost the shipping line, but noted that eight of Tallink's 15 vessels are currently operating.

The company will handle the crisis and on the assumption that the crisis will not run much longer, Tallink will survive. "It depends on what the current year will turn out to be. We are well capitalized today, we have enough liquidity. Of course, if this crisis lasts another two-three years, then all transport companies need to find new measures to keep their business and to redefine it and what to do and what not to do," Nõgene said.

Soon, it will be a year (March 12) since the first restrictions and an emergency situation were established. Nõgene said this has given everyone time to think on how to proceed and what to do differently.

Tallink has had to lay off 2,500 employees in that year due to ships and hotels being closed. "Tallink began last year with 7,100 employees, we finished with 2,500 less," Nõgene noted and added that Finnish and Swedish employees are mostly on paid vacation and supported by the state.

"If ships start to move, we can offer people work again," he said.

The company will look for state's aid in marketing post-crisis

Nõgene said his greatest expectation for state aid after borders open is that Estonia would be fully prepared to host tourists, as catering and tourism are not the only sectors to suffer at the hands of restrictions, the food industry has also lost on orders.

"Estonia has an important task to be ready immediately as borders begin to open in order to market Estonia as a destination," he said.

The competition between countries to open borders will be extraordinarily tight and the state must be prepared to market itself, especially in neighboring countries, to attract tourists.

The CEO assesses the situation will not improve by spring's end. "We believe that nothing will happen before May, but if the vaccine dance in Europe continues, it could be delayed even more," Nõgene said.

Now, Nõgene said it is important that the EU receives vaccines from producers. Next would be to agree on a vaccine pass. At the same time, Nõgene sees that travel within the EU should be allowed if the traveler has a negative coronavirus test to show at least 72 hours before travel.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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