Reorganization at Viking Line costs 175 Estonians jobs

MS Viking XPRS.
MS Viking XPRS. Source: Viking Line

A decision by Finnish shipper Viking Line to register ferry XPRS in Finland instead of Estonia, set to cost 175 Estonian sailors their jobs, is probably tied to the company selling its other ferry Rosella.

Viking Line registered the XPRS, previously flying the Swedish flag, in Estonia in 2014 after the vessel had been operating the Tallinn-Helsinki route for eight years. The shipper said it needed to cut costs at the time. Viking Line announced on December 7 this year that it has decided to register the XPRS in Finland.

The company said that this would make it easier to hire staff and handle HR without mediation. The decision is set to cost the jobs of 175 people in Estonia who work for the company through labor brokers Eurowork.

While Viking Line wrote in its announcement that all 175 Estonian employees can reapply after the ship hoists the Finnish flag in the first quarter of 2023, Jüri Lember, chairman of the Estonian Seamen's Independent Union, said that only a few are looking at a realistic chance of landing a position.

Viking Line also said it has agreed to sell its ferry Rosella, built in 1980, to Greek company Aegean Sealines Maritime Co. for €11 million. Rosella no longer meets regional environmental requirements, especially in terms of carbon emissions. The ship is set to leave the Baltic on January 8 and arrive in Greece later that month.

Paavo Nõgene, CEO of Viking Line's Estonian competitor Tallink, said that the sale of Rosella is likely one reason why the Finnish shipper has decided to register the XPRS in Finland. Rosella currently employs abut as many Finns as XPRS does Estonians. "Laying staff off is quite a painful process in Finland, and since they're using rental labor in Estonia, they likely made the pragmatic choice. Because the crew of the Rosella will be out of work, they will lay off the Estonians and man the XPRS with Finns," Nõgene offered.

Jüri Lember said as much, adding that keeping vessels under the same country's flag also makes it easier to move staff from one ferry to another.

Paavo Nõgene said, for example, that moving all of Tallink's ships under the Latvian flag would save the company €15 million.


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Editor: Huko Aaspõllu, Marcus Turovski

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