Bill raising profile of navy in coastal surveillance roles put to Riigikogu

Estonian Navy (Merevägi) patrol vessel, coming into harbor in Tallinn.
Estonian Navy (Merevägi) patrol vessel, coming into harbor in Tallinn. Source: Maria Tõkke

From the beginning of 2023, Estonian Navy (Merevägi) vessels will deal with maritime surveillance, border guarding, pollution control and all other seaborne activities which had previously been undertaken by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA).

Following a merger, the PPA's four larger vessels will join the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), under the terms of a bill currently at its second Riigikogu reading.

The change was first announced late last year. The EDF – which the Merevägi is organizationally a part of rather than being a standalone service – and, should the act pass at the Rigikogu, the EDF will take on supervision of smaller vessels, meaning hose under 12 meters in length, as well as providing emergency services and assistance to those in difficulty. Overall maritime rescue will remain the PPA's responsibility.

Marine pollution will also be in the EDF's remit, except for that which crosses Estonia's international maritime borders, which again remains the responsibility of the PPA.

The EDF will also deal with th handling of hazardous substances at sea. 

The legislation being processed has been amended in three places between its first and second Riigikogu readings, mainly concerning the boundaries of responsibility between the two authorities and also reflecting the changed security situation since November 2021.

The bill's explanatory memorandum states that the aim of the reform is to improve the situational awareness and the response capacity of the Estonian maritime sector, including simplifying the chain of command to ensure Estonia's independent defense capabilities and the preconditions for the allies to respond to any conflict in the region. 

The merger of PPA vessels into the Merevägi will, the bill adds, ensure the better performance of national defense tasks with modern-day vessels, both in peacetime and in crises.

The EDF required legislative changes in order to perform these activities.

For example, if the master of a ship wishes to change the handling location, the PBGB must now be notified. 

Last November, interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) told ERR that around 50 percent of the PPA's fleet, and 100 percent of the navy's vessels, will need replacing this decade.

The bill will be put before the Riigikogu for its second reading next Monday. A third reading must be held before entering into force, though no substantive amendments may be made at this stage.

The PPA also announced an offshore patrol boat public procurement round, valued at €5.2 million, late last year when the merger had been first made public.

The Mervägi's fleet primarily consists of ex-Royal Navy (U.K.) Sandown-class Minehunters; two Saaremaa-built patrol vessels (one pictured above) were added from the end of 2020 also.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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