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Two new passenger ship routes set to begin in upcoming months

Feb 22, 2006
From wire reports

TALLINN - The board of the Riga Free Port has approved a draft agreement with Estonia's Tallink for launching a route between Stockholm and Riga, and the final paperwork could be signed in a week's time. Port spokesman Karlis Leiskalns said that this means that the first Tallink ferry could be launched on the route as early as March, with a second ship following soon after. The board of the Riga Free Port authorized the administrator 's or his deputy 's to sign the agreement with Tallink, which, just like the port, is interested in the deal, the spokesman said. He added, however, that revenues from the ferry service could be smaller than investments made in launching the route.

On Feb. 17, the board considered an unofficial translation of the agreement in Latvian, while analyzing possible consequences that might arise from a breach in contract.

Tallink plans to launch its passenger ferry, Fantaasia, on the lucrative Riga-Stockholm route in March this year and, depending on its success, could introduce the Regina Baltica in May. With the World Ice Hockey Championship set to take place, demand is bound to be high enough to warrant two ships on the route.

At present, there is no passenger-ferry traffic between Riga and Stockholm, as ferry operator Rigas Juras Linijas (Riga Sea Lines), owned by the Riga City Council, the free port and several individual businessmen, terminated its operations last October due to insolvency.

Meanwhile, Estonian ferries on the Sillamae-Kotka route will begin plying in March. The operator, Saaremaa Laevakompanii (Saaremaa Shipping Company) said it expected to launch passenger service as early as June.

This, however, depends on whether passenger terminals in the ports of Sillamae, in northeastern Estonia, and Kotka, on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, are completed in time.

According to initial plans, the ship would make six weekly departures from both ports. The exact schedule and prices will become clear shortly, an operator spokesperson said.

The Sillamae-Kotka route was officially opened on Feb. 17.

The council chairman of Saaremaa Laevakompanii, Vjatsheslav Leedo, said the operator was counting on both regional cargo flows as well as northeast Estonia's tourism potential.

"This is already our second new project in the past year. Ventspils' positive example has encouraged us to take risks in Sillamae too," Leedo said, referring to the new route connecting the Latvian port city Ventspils with Estonia's Saaremaa Island.

Saaremaa Laevakompanii recently established a new subsidiary, Narva Line OU, to operate the Sillamae-Kotka route, creating 50 jobs in the process. The ship to ply the new route is the 158-meter passenger and cargo ship Vironia, built in Norway in 1977.
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