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Heltermaa, Rohuküla ports won't see backup berths before 2019

The Leiger at Rohuküla Harbour.
The Leiger at Rohuküla Harbour. Source: (Juhan Hepner/ERR)

While Hiiumaa's connection with the Estonian mainland was interrupted entirely on Monday morning after the ferry Leiger broke down in port in Rohuküla, blocking the Tiiu's access as well to the port's only appropriately sized berth, backup berths in either port cannot be expected before 2019.

State enterprise Saarte Liinid, which manages the ports and ensures ferry connections between the Estonian mainland and the islands, has promised that one backup berth each will be built in the ports of Rohuküla and Heltermaa in 2019.

"Currently there is one berth or ramp each in Heltermaa and in Rohuküla capable of serving the new vessels," Saarte Liinid board member Jaanus Tamkivi told ERR, noting that the other berth in each port is suited for older ferries such as the Regula.

"As they were built using EU funds during the previous financing period, there is a so-called limitation of operation in place," he explained. "According to the current policy, the ramps can be replaced with new ramps in 2019. We are planning on it as well; they are listed as part of this period's investment plan and we will be constructing them in 2019."

The Kuivastu-Virtsu route connecting Saaremaa to the mainland via the smaller island of Muhu has two ramps on either end capable of serving the new ferries.

Regular service restored by Monday afternoon

The Tiiu departed Heltermaa, the port serving Estonia's second-largest island, on schedule on Monday morning, but was unable to dock in Rohuküla, as the broken-down Leiger remained stuck at the berth there. The Tiiu thereafter turned around to return to Hiiumaa.

According to TS Laevad board member and shipping director Mart Loik, the Leiger's breakdown involved an issue with a propulsor's electrical system, which also prevented the ferry from moving away from the berth.

The ferry's crew was able to repair the issue by 10:55 a.m. The next departures took place from Rohuküla at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and from Heltermaa at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., after which ferry traffic between the island and the mainland was back on schedule.

Port of Tallinn communications director Sirle Arro explained to ERR that there is just one berth in Rohuküla capable of serving the new passenger ferries, and as it was not possible to get the Leiger out of the way, so to speak, the Tiiu had no choice but to turn back together with its passengers.

The substitute ferry Regula, which would have been capable of docking at another berth in Rohuküla if necessary, could not be brought online before noon as it was not crewed to serve passengers at the time. Operation of the Regula would have also been disrupted by Monday's windy conditions.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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