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€40-million procurement underway for larger electric vessel to serve Saaremaa

Two of TS Laevad's five ferries, the Piret, and the Tõll.
Two of TS Laevad's five ferries, the Piret, and the Tõll. Source: TS Laevad

A €40-million procurement process is underway to find a vessel, and service provider, which would be fully electric and would link the Estonian mainland to the island of Saaremaa.

This would require charging stations to be installed on dry land as a prerequisite.

The e-ferry should be operational by or in 2026, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

The planned vessel will be larger than the half-dozen currently plying the routes between the Estonian mainland and the Western islands and will also require docking stations, which would recharge the ferry when in port, on both side of the Suur Strait, at Kuivastu, on Muhu island, and at Virtsu on the mainland.

It is not clear yet who will be providing the service, however, since companies other than the regular ferry provider, TS Laevad, have expressed an interest.

Indrek Randveer, board chair at TS Laevad told AK that: "1. procurement documents must be submitted by February 2024. The competition is very tight. Our competitors are from both Estonia and Norway."

One option might be, if TS Laevad retains the contract, for one of its ships, the Piret, becoming a full-fledged electric vessel, alongside the Tõll, a hybrid (diesel-electric) ferry.

"I really hope so, because whether the shore infrastructure will come along hinges on whether it is viable to recharge electric vessels from the shore," Randveer told AK.

The technical specification calls for a ferry which must be capable of operating emissions-free and under normal conditions, while its main source of energy for propulsion and utility services needs to be electricity

Power would derive both from an on-shore charging station to which the ferry would be hooked up while in port, and from on-board cells which utilized compressed hydrogen to generate electricity.

Additionally, backup biodiesel generators on board would be available in the case of failure of the above, and/or in severe winter conditions.

The newer, larger e-vessel needs to be in service in 2026 to connect the mainland to Muhu island, which in turn links to Saaremaa via a road causeway.

At the same time, AS Saarte Liinid, a state-owned firm which operates many of Estonia's smaller ports, must erect a port infrastructure for the e-vessels, noted above, at a cost of around €10 million.

Jalmar Jõksi, head of Saarte Liinid's infrastructure department, said that a total of four charging devices are planned, on both sides of the Suur Strait.

The details of how the charging stations , for example, at the Kuivastu quay, will look is not clear, Jõski added, though what is certain is a charging station with a capacity of 5 MW should be able to fully charge the vessel's' batteries for its next trip – and within a time-span measurable in minutes.

The procurement process is ongoing.

TS Laevad is a subsidiary of the majority state-owned Port of Tallinn.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Margus Muld.

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