The ferry line connecting Sillamäe and the Finnish city Kotka, which ceased operations in 2007, may be reopened, due to interest on both side of the Gulf of Finland. The City of Sillamäe has commissioned a study to determine the potential cost and timeline involved in doing so.
15 years ago, when the Kotka-Sillamäe ferry line was discontinued, the reason given was declining trade with Russia, with the route not considered profitable if used for tourism alone.
Alexei Stepanov, deputy mayor of Sillamäe, told ERR that the ship, which previously sailed between the two cities, lacked a number of facilities for passengers, and that lessons would need to be learned from that when planning the relaunch of the Kotka-Sillamäe service.
"There were no special facilities for the carriage of passengers, there were too few cabins was and passengers had no opportunity to spend any time at leisure during the trip. The ship had not been adapted to carry passengers. We can learn from this (when planning) the future route," Stepanov said.
The reopening of the ferry service between Kotka and Sillamäe is also of great interest to the Finns, who, after halting trade with Russia, are in need of a new route into mainland Europe. According to Finnish public broadcaster Yle, it is believed that transporting goods through eastern Estonia would be cheaper than via other routes. The quality of Estonian roads, which have improved considerably in recent years, is also seen as a major plus.
To reopen the route, Finland intends to request financial support from the European Regional Development Fund. While a passenger terminal already exists in Kotka, Sillamäe would require a separate quay to be built in order to accommodate passengers. According to Stepanov, the cost-effectiveness and potential timeframe of such an investment will be determined by the commissioned study.
Kadri Jalonen, tourism coordinator for Ida-Viru County, told ERR that there is a lot of interest in re-establishing the ferry connection on both the Estonian and Finnish sides.
"Entrepreneurs have said that this is a priority. The interest from the Finnish side is on a completely different level than before. For both regions, connections to Russia have ended, and they urgently need a new route," said Jalonen.
The Sillamäe Municipality aims to have the analysis ready in the first half of next year. If the results of the study are favorable, funds will then be sought to pay for the construction of a passenger quay and to find a ferry line operator.
According to Yle however, Finland is also considering whether it definitely will establish a ferry line connecting Kotka to Sillamäe, or if Kunda in Lääne-Viru County is more suitable.
Editor: Michael Cole