Following the breakdown last month of the catamaran ferry Runö, which connects the remote Western Estonian island to the mainland, Ruhnu islanders sent a letter to Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Centre) expressing doubts about the suitability of the vessel for the route. Simson replied by reminding the island residents that of the options offered, they themselves favoured the catamaran.
"The Runö is entirely seaworthy," Simson said. "It is designed, built, set up, equipped, manned and loaded according to the requirements of maritime safety and best practices, and the vessel's technical condition meets maritime safety requirements, compliance with which helps prevent maritime accidents, danger to human life and pollution to the marine environment, as provided by the Maritime Safety Act. This is confirmed by the certificates issued to the vessel by the Estonian Maritime Administration."
She highlighted that ahead of the current ferry service season, the Runö underwent a number of renovations.
"Smaller or bigger improvement work has been done on the Runö in previous years as well," she continued. "All of these improvements have been done to ensure stable sailing and a stable connection for travellers and operators of the vessel. Only a few isolated Runö departures have been cancelled due to technical problems; the main reason departures have been cancelled is still inclement weather conditions."
According to Simson, a smooth and stable connection with both the mainland and the major island of Saaremaa is of vital importance to residents of the tiny island, which is why the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is working together with the Estonian Road Administration and the Estonian Maritime Administration to find solutions to help avoid situations in the future in which the island's connection with the mainland suffers significantly.
"One possible solution is to purchase a spare main engine," she offered as an example. "Unfortunately it's not possible to ensure that the vessel will always stick exactly to the schedule, as occasionally the issue is inclement weather conditions."
The minister recalled that Ruhnu islanders themselves had decided that a catamaran would be the best choice of vessel to serve their connection with the mainland.
In 2009, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications commissioned an analysis of the most suitable type of vessel to serve the Ruhnu-mainland ferry route. The analysis included three different vessel concepts, which were presented in turn to the residents of the island.
"According to the Ruhnu municipal government and residents, based on the needs of the island at the time, the preferred type of vessel was a catamaran," Simson noted. "A faster vessel will ensure a faster connection between the island and the mainland, but is not as impervious to the weather as a slower, mono-hull vessels with an ice class."
After breaking down just ahead of the Midsummer holidays in late June, the Runö's broken down main engine was replaced earlier this month and has since returned to serving Ruhnu's ferry connection to the mainland.
Editor: Aili Vahtla