Four Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) maritime patrol vessels officially became a part of the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) fleet Tuesday, following a merger between the two services.
The move, heralded by a ceremony Tuesday (see gallery), will provide Estonia with a comprehensive maritime security capability both in peacetime and in crisis times, it is argued.
The navy will be operating all maritime radar as well as the vessels, while the PPA's maritime surveillance center and the EDF's operations center were relocated to the same site at the end of last year.
The navy is organizationally part of the EDF, and not a standalone service.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said: "This improves situational awareness and responsiveness within the Estonian maritime area and provides Estonia with a better defensive capability, and creates prerequisites for allies' response to the conflict in the region."
Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) stressed that the merging and transfer of fleets was not merely a technical formality.
He said: "Looking at the current situation, in the future we have to increase our ability to respond to various hybrid challenges and crisis situations at sea, because Estonia has a lengthy sea border in relation to a small land area in an area with heavy maritime traffic."
"As a Baltic Sea nation, in addition to our own border control, we also have a responsibility towards our partner countries - we must be ready and able to respond to various danger situations and make a worthy contribution if necessary together with partners."
"In this context, combining the capabilities of PPA and the EDF is more than the sum of its parts and actually boosts the country's sea defense capability and monitoring capability across our border waters," explained Interior Minister Läänemets.
Commodore Jüri Saska, commander of the navy, sid: "Of course, such major reorganizations do not happen without the will and the people to do so. General Johannes Kert planted the seed in the political landscape, just before he left us."
Johannes Kert is a former EDF commander and politician, who passed away in March 2021.
Going forward, the EDF's task is to defend and protect Estonian's maritime border, while overall border control remains the task of the PPA.
The EDF now has sole responsibility for maritime situational awareness; until now, that responsibility had been shared.
The PPA will still have responsibility over marine pollution at sea and on bodies of wather, using aircraft.
Rescue at sea also remains responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but, where necessary, making use of naval ships in resolving events will be viable.
The merger will also necessitate common platforms for the performance for all required tasks, and to make uniform investments to ensure maritime security.
The PPA vessels' former civilian tasks remain in place, simply under a military organization.
The chain of command of the fleets will be made more unified and efficient, significantly accelerating the use of vessels in different situations, it is reported.
While Estonia is 129th in the world in the order of nation states by land area, when it comes to coastline, it makes the top 30, with a length of 3,794km, compared with barely 100km for Lithuania. The highly indented nature of the northwest and west coast, and the large number of islands ranging from the largest – Saaremaa, which itself has a highly indented shoreline – to uninhabited islets of few dozen square meters.
The changed security situation has meant that the interior ministry and defense ministry have been cooperating very closely on the matter of Estonia's border integrity.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov