Hiiumaa calculates damage caused by ferry transport crisis

A line of vehicles waiting to board the ferry at the Port of Heltermaa on the island of Hiiumaa.
A line of vehicles waiting to board the ferry at the Port of Heltermaa on the island of Hiiumaa. Source: Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees/Scanpix

Hiiumaa Municipality has gathered feedback and information regarding losses incurred by business-owners and residents as well as visitors of the island in connection with difficult transport conditions in recent months.

Business-owners were able to provide information to the municipality about the additional expenses they incurred, and the municipality also launched an online questionnaire open for everyone to give feedback.

Six Hiiumaa businesses informed the municipality of damages they experienced in recent months. Their direct losses during interruptions to ferry traffic connecting Hiiumaa to the Estonian mainland between the end of February and early April totaled approximately €25,000.

The largest losses, more than €15,000, were incurred by OÜ Hiiu Autotrans, a company that offers transport services between the island of Hiiumaa and the mainland as well as internationally. The company's operations were affected during a total of 15 business days, not including solitary instances of missing a ferry due to volume restrictions implented on the vessels during another period.

Hiiumaa Municipal Mayor Reili Rand said in a press release that following the crisis, the municipality has held work meetings with the Estonian Road Administration and ferry services provider TS Laevad to agree on principles regarding how to act in possible future emergency situations.

"Among other things, we have agreed that it will be stipulated in the terms of the contract of carraiage between the carrier and the state that activity in emergency situations will be coordinated with the municipality of Hiiumaa," Rand said.

The island municipality is now working to determine concrete steps for activity in emergency situations — for example, a regulation concerning the description of critical or vital cargo to which the service provider must give priority in cases of volume restrictions. The municipality is also seeking an amendment to the contract concerning the refunding of tickets in cases of emergency, as the refunding of unused tickets in recent months meant additional expenses for island residents and visitors alike.

"We are also working to improve communication so that information regarding various means of transport comes from one source," Rand added.

The online questionnaire was available on the Hiiumaa Municipality homepage from March 9 through April 5. During this time, a total of 310 responses were received, including 191 from island residents, 53 from companies based in or tied to Hiiumaa, 23 seasonal residents of the island, 16 Hiiumaa natives who live or work on the mainland, 12 visitors to the island, and seven students of Hiiumaa Vocational School.

According to the results, 13 percent of respondents were unaffected by connection issues. Other respondents cited disruptions concerning work meetings, attending school and training, going to the doctor and other appointments at Hiiumaa Hospital as well as making it to family gatherings and funerals. Also affected were the arrival and departure of visitors to the island, and comments noted that what was most lacking was information, especially information regarding bus services.

Respondents also cited direct expenses incurred as a result of transport issues as related to accommodation, additional transport expenses as well as unreceived income. One business-owner said that some work that was to go to their company ended up going to other companies in Valga and in Latvia instead. The owner of an accommodation business said that some Finnish visitors did not arrive at their guesthouse as there was no foreign-language information posted on the foreign-language pages of either TS Laevad or the Port of Rohuküla.

One respondent, a representative of Hiiumaa Hospital, said that the interruption of ferry services posed a great challenge to the hospital in many fields. Among other issues, the transport of patients to higher-stage hospitals and the return of patients to Hiiumaa for aftercare suffered, and ambulatory appointments were canceled. As a result, the hospital had to apologize to patients, hear patient concerns and rebook appointments.

From late February through early April, ferry services connecting Hiiumaa to the Estonian mainland were frequently hampered or outright suspended, reportedly due to low sea levels in the Rukki Channel.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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