Prangli island elder Terje Lilleoks has sent an appeal to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), the Estonian Maritime Administration and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications an appeal in which she called the island's situation in terms of its ferry connection to the mainland "tragic."
The mainland's connection with the Northern Estonian island has been disrupted on and off throughout the year. During the winter, one three-week period saw constant disruptions in connection with ice conditions on the Gulf of Finland; islanders ended up trapped on the mainland — or vice versa. Cargo transport experienced disruptions as a result as well.
In August, the ferry serving the route suffered a failure, taking the Wrangö offline for a period of ten days in the middle of the hottest tourist season, and the replacement ferries employed to serve the connection couldn't handle the necessary volumes of either passengers or cargo.
On 24 September, the Wrangö was docked for three weeks of scheduled repairs; it was to be back in service by 15 October. In really, the Wrangö only just returned to the island route last week.
"As a result, shipments of critical cargo to the island have not been made that are crucial for surviving the winter there — the filling station has run out of petrol, and there is only enough fuel at the power station for a couple of weeks," Ms Lilleoks wrote. "Large-scale winter stocks have not made it to the store, speak nothing of residents' planned shipments. The current situation would be laughable if it weren't downright tragic to residents of the island. So long as the unsuccessful tenderer AS Kihnu Veeteed continues squabbling over the path agreement, the people of the island of Prangli will continue to suffer."
The island elder stressed that she is expecting an immediate victory for common sense. "The ship has finally been repaired, but it's at a standstill — as are our lives," she said. "So please do something!"
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications told BNS that as according to the Public Transport Act, local public transport is coordinated by the municipal government, the ministry cannot get involved in the Prangli ferry issue.
Court forbids municipality from concluding contract
Tallinn Administrative Court this week granted an application for interim measures filed by AS Kihnu Veeteed, forbidding Viimsi Municipal Government from concluding a direct contract with the Vjatšeslav Leedo-owned Tuule Liinid until 11 January.
AS Kihnu Veeteed sent the court an email noting that they had a well-founded fear that should the court fail to handle their request within a matter of minutes or hours, the Viimsi Municipal Government may conclude an unlawful contract with Tuule Liinid, it stands in the court ruling.
Should either Viimsi Municipality or Tuule Liinid wish to contest the entry into force of interim measures, they have 15 days to appeal to Tallinn Circuit Court.
Tuule Liinid is to begin operating a ferry route between the villages of Kelnase and Leppneeme, as it submitted a less expensive procurement tender than current operator Kihnu Veeteed, offering to operate the route with the Wrangö for a period of two years at a cost of €834,057 to Kihnu Veeteed's €967,812.
Kihnu Veeteed CEO Andres Laasma said that it was unacceptable that a critical service be offered by a shell company that had at its first public procurement submitted a joint tender together with Saaremaa Shipping Company, whose bankruptcy proceeding was underway at the same time as the ferry service operator procurement.
As Kihnu Veeteed had operated the Prangli ferry since 2013 but the contract had expired on 30 October, Viimsi Municipality launched a new public procurement procedure. A joint offer submitted by the Leedo-owned Tuule Liinid and Saaremaa Shipping Company was deemed the most successful tender.
Kihnu Veeteed contested the decision, as Holostovi Kinnisvarahaldus, likewise owned by Mr Leedo, had demanded the bankruptcy of Saaremaa Shipping Company; the previous operator likewise referred to other back taxes owed by other companies. The Public Procurement Review Committee rejected the appeal, and Kihnu Veeteed took its appeal to court.
Legal clarity was not reached in court either, as the municipality ultimately cancelled its procurement, citing the fact that the contract could no longer be concluded under the terms thereof, as the contract period was listed with specific start and end dates — 1 November 2018 through 31 October 2023.
The municipal government then conducted an award procedure based on the Public Transport Act according to which in the case of the carriage of passengers and vehicles by ship or ferry, a local government may directly award a public service contract in accordance with the general principles of public procurement, but not for more than two years.
Invitations to submit tenders were likewise sent to Tallink, TS Laevad and TS Shipping, but only Kihnu Veeteed and Tuule Liinid ultimately submitted offers.
Wrangö repaired, waiting for new operator contract
Tuule Liinid is to begin operating ferry service connecting the island of Prangli to the Estonian mainland with the state-owned ferry Wrangö, which is issued to the operator under contract with the state.
Kihnu Veeteed is currently operating the Kelnase-Leppneeme route with its own substitute ferry, the Vesta, as the Wrangö is offline due to tehcnical issues.
Estonian Maritime Authority communications director Jane Niit told BNS that the Wrangö was received on Friday and is currently anchored at Hundipea Harbour, waiting for a new contract to be signed for the operation of the ferry.
Editor: Aili Vahtla