Finns press Kotka, Rekvere officials for new passenger port

  • 2005-04-06
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - The port of Kunda in northeastern Estonia said last week it was hoping to open a ship route to Kotka, Finland that would attract deep-pocketed Finnish tourists looking for an alternative to the hectic Helsinki-Tallinn route.

The regional newspaper, Virumaa Teataja, reported this week that Kotka Mayor Henry Lindelof and Pekka Linnainen, a Finn who is heading the project, visited the regional capital Rakvere at the invitation of the country governor. Both men later said it would be possible to launch the passenger ship route even though Kunda only handled cargo now.

"Kotka is one of the most important ports of the Gulf of Finland, but the city doesn't have a ship connection with Estonia. We are ready to create it," Lindelof said.

Currently the shipper Kristiina Cruises operates tours out of Kotka to the Aland Islands, the Turku archipelago and islands off the Gulf of Finland. Another shipper, Alien Shipping, is soon to start taking tourists from the port of Kotka to St. Petersburg.

A ship route between Kotka and Sillamae, Estonia, is expected to open in spring 2006. The trip will take five'ssix hours, depending on whether Russia gives permission to go through its waters near the Tytarsaar Islands that are part of Russia since World War II.

Lindelof and Linnainen said Kotka had the necessary facilities and can start accepting ships any day.

Kunda, however, renowned for its large cement factory, is located in one of Estonia's poorest regions and will be pressed to come up with finance for such an ambitious project. A Ro-Ro quay in Kunda Port would cost 28 million kroons (1.8 million euros) to build, a little more than a tenth of the size of the investment made in the port over the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that companies operating fast boat traffic between Tallinn and Helsinki are planning to raise ticket prices by up to one-tenth. The daily Postimees quoted Nordic Jet Line sales director Malle Kolnes as saying the rise in fuel prices on the world market was to blame.

Enn Rohula, CEO of Lindaliini AS, said any rise in ticket prices would be small since the competition was getting tougher. "Supply is clearly above demand, and this sets limits to the price rise," he said. "Naturally something has to be done."

Also, the end of tax-free on-board trade after Estonia joined the European Union has hit operators' margins. Although the amount of goods sold in on-board shops has not declined, profits earned have gone down significantly.

This summer there should be at least 10 passenger ships between Tallinn and Helsinki, after Silja Line announced that it would put a third SuperSeaCat into operation on the route.

Rohula said Lindaliini AS was also considering acquisition of a new ship since passenger numbers were growing.

According to preliminary plans, fast boats were set to open their season at the beginning of April, but the start of the navigation season has been postponed until the end of this week, shipping companies' officials said.