Kuressaare flight carrier unclear as procurement process declared invalid

A Jetstream 32 operated by Transviabaltika. The company's contract to fly to Saaremaa expired on June 1, but it is not clear who will be awarded the next contract.
A Jetstream 32 operated by Transviabaltika. The company's contract to fly to Saaremaa expired on June 1, but it is not clear who will be awarded the next contract. Source: Transaviabaltika

The Road Administration authority has declared the procurement procedure in the Tallinn-Kuressaare flight route, linking the capital of Estonia's largest islands to the mainland, invalid, leaving it unclear who will be operating the route in future. The issue surrounds the awarding or otherwise of the contract to Regional Air, a subsidiary of Estonian carrier Nordica. The service up to early June had been carried out by Lithuanian carrier Transviabaltika.

The procurement process was first announced in December 2018, at an estimated €26 million. One concern was the present service, operated by Transviabaltika, offered too small a capacity. It operated 19-seater Let L-410 Turbolet planes.

Transviabaltika was initially re-awarded the contract, but the Road Administration then instead awarded the contract to Regional Jet, a subsidiary of Estonian carrier Nordica.

Transviabaltika continued operating the route under its original contract to June 1, and had offered to up its freqeuency of flights as a way to alleviate the limited places available.

"The Road Administration is making every effort to bring a larger plane to Tallinn-Kuressaare route as soon as possible, one which is better suited to the needs and expectations of local people," Meelis Telliskivi, traffic director at the Road Administration, ERR's online Estonian news reports.

"Therefore, we are announcing a new procurement as soon as possible," he continued.

The decision was also under the instruction of the finance ministry.

Procurement technicalities

From June 1, Transviabalitka continued to keep the route open under a renewed contract in line with Estonian law, but with a two-month break clause should the Road Administration find a new carrier.

The new procurement process had required planes with a minimum of 40 seats only. Two companies expressed their interest in a five-year contract, Regional, which offered a 76-seat plane, and Transviabaltika, with a 46-seater.

Transviabaltika came in cheaper at €6,023 per round trip (excl. VAT), compared with Regional's €8,534, but price was not the sole consideration, it is reported.

The aircraft's age was also a key issue; Regional's planes were seven years old, as compared with Transviabaltika's planes, built in 1993.

However, one financial technicality emerged connected with Regional's bid, which it had not initially responded to. The bidders obligations should not exceed the total value of assets, under public procurement law, but in fact it did, by €2.3 million, handing the contract in effect back to Transviabaltika.

Regional appealed the decision, however, noting that parent company Nordica was worth €27 million more than its liabilities and thus able to bail out Regional if needed.

Transviabaltika has been operating the Kuressaare route since 2016. It also operates a link to Kärdla, capital of the second largest Estonian island, Hiiumaa.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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