A ferry which links the Estonian mainland to the island of Saaremaa will be back in service Saturday. While other vessels maintained connections while it was out-of-action, after striking the quay at Kuivastu harbor, this required some reorganization, which sparked resentment among residents of Estonia's second-largest island, Hiiumaa.
The ferry, the Tõll, is comparatively new, having been laid down around five years ago and refitted with hybrid diesel-electric power plants a couple of years ago. She struck the quay at Kuivastu, on Muhu – an island adjacent to Saaremaa and connected to it via a causeway road – causing damage to both vessel and land-based vehicle ramp, not to mention the president's car, on July 21.
Technical issues were subsequently to blame, ferry line TS Laevad says, and she was brought to Tallinn Harbor for repairs.
While the exact nature of these issues still has not been fully clarified, the Tõll is leaving Tallinn Friday in time to arrive back for the Virtsu-Kuivastu route schedules Saturday.
Guldar Kivro, TS Laevad board member, said: "We concluded that such an anomaly only occurs if certain parameters coincide when sailing on hybrid regime," referring to the technical problem which caused last month's incident.
"We have come closer to the reason of the accident, but the exact cause thereof currently remains unknown; the analysis of data continues along with system tests by the manufacturers in a virtual environment," he added.
"We are bringing the ferry back on the Saaremaa route starting from tomorrow, and until the reason of the error is clarified in detail, the Tõll will only operate on the diesel-electric regime, that is in the same configuration as our other three main vessels. Meanwhile, the testing of hybrid systems and checks for determining the fault in detail will continue," Kivro added.
Economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) said Friday that: "It is good that we're able to bring the Tõll back on the route sooner than the previously estimated date of August 10. We know that the Tõll being off the route has caused inconvenience to residents, tourists and entrepreneurs on the islands, and we're all the more glad to see regular ferry service restored."
Aas said this week that his ministry would be buying up most of the five ferries which serve Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, and/or one which is still on the drawing board, to make costs savings of several millions per annum.
TS Laevad is a subsidiary of the Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam), a part-state-owned concern.
Guldar Kivro of TS Laevad added that simulating conditions which occurred at Kuivastu when the incident happened resulted in the same fault manifesting.
The return of the Tõll means the Tiiu will go back to her regular route between Hiiumaa and the mainland, rejoining the Leiger, while the Piret and the 50-year-old Regula will continue serving Saaremaa.
The reduction in capacity on the Hiiumaa route as a result of the Saaremaa-bound ferry's accident, and the resulting wait lines, sparked protests from residents and others with connections to the island, who claimed favoritism.
Noone was injured in the July 21 incident, though the president's personal, not official, car suffered damage.
Editor: Andrew Whyte