Saaremaa, Ventspils to start looking for ferry operator in June

Cruise ship in Saaremaa. The island depends on additional arrivals in the summer season.
Cruise ship in Saaremaa. The island depends on additional arrivals in the summer season. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Local paper Saarte Hääl reported on Wednesday that Estonia's Saaremaa municipality and the Latvian city of Ventspils are planning to launch an international tender already in June. The aim is to find a shipper to reopen the Month-Ventspils ferry route across the Gulf of Riga.

If the public procurement tender produces an acceptable bid, the local administration will turn to the Saaremaa municipal council and ask them for more detailed financial commitments in the fall, deputy mayor Marili Niits told the paper.

Janis Vitolins, deputy chairman of the city council of Ventspils, and Imants Sarmulis, manager of the port of Ventspils, met with local officials of the Saaremaa municipality in Kuressaare on Monday to discuss the terms and conditions of the tender.

According to Niits, the current plan is to sign a cooperation agreement soon.

According to a viability study commissioned by local non-profit Saarte Koostöökogu, the connection would be socioeconomically viable, but would likely need state backing as it couldn't be expected to be a commercial success.

The study's optimistic scenario still expects subsidies in the amount of more than €100,000 to be necessary to keep the route open, with the hope of the route becoming profitable within some eight years. A less optimistic scenario predicts more than €300,000 a year would be needed.

Representatives at both the Estonian and the Latvian end decided in June last year to start looking for a suitable passenger ferry for the proposed summer service. They started the process of drawing up a public tender for this in October 2018.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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