Tallink boosts fleet, orders another ship

  • 2007-04-18
  • By TBT staff
TALLINN - Leading Baltic shipper Tallink launched a new vessel and ordered another over the past week, and also posted a 120 percent jump year-on-year in passenger turnover for the month of March. The Estonian shipper announced that it carried 472,467 passengers in March, up from 213,000 a year ago. Most of the increase was due to last year's acquisition of Finland's Silja Line passenger fleet, which is focused mainly on the Helsinki-Stockholm route.

Still, the company said it managed to increase passenger handling on the Tallinn-Helsinki route by using the larger M/S Galaxy instead of the M/S Romantika, which was used on the Tallinn-Stockholm line in place of the Regina Baltica.
In all, the number of passengers traveling between Estonia and Finland numbered 178,321 in March, up 6 percent year-on-year.
The Tallink Group also announced that it has signed an agreement with Finland's Aker Yards to build a new cruise liner for some 2.8 billion kroons (179 million euros). The vessel, which is scheduled for delivery in spring 2009, will be similar to the M/S Galaxy, financial director Janek Stalmeister said in a statement.

The liner will be 212 meters long, 29 meters wide, and have a capacity of 2,800 passengers, the company said.
The guiding principle in designing the vessel was attention to the comfort and luxury of passengers," the company said. "There will be maximum use of high-tech solutions onboard."
The ship will be financed by long-term debt. The company has reached a preliminary agreement with Danske Bank, and the loan will be guaranteed by Finnvera, the Finnish export credit agency.
Company officials declined to say what route in the Baltic Sea the ship would ply.
"There are possibilities for many scenarios on both the current routes, as well as potential new routes, including the replacement of some of the existing vessels," the company said.

Meanwhile, the Finnish press reported on April 12 that the new cruise ferry would service the Turku-Stockholm route.
"The Turku line has not received a new vessel for ages, so the new boat would be justified here. The route plan is, however, just an idea and undecided for the time being," Tallink Silja CEO Keijo Mehtonen told the Finnish daily Turun Sanomat.
A second cruise ship in Tallink's Galaxy series that is currently being built at Aker Yards will start operating on the Helsinki-Tallinn route after its delivery in spring 2008. The Galaxy, which presently serves the route, will be transferred to the Turku-Stockholm line, Tallink stated.

As far as the Festival and the Europa ship sailing between Turku and Stockholm, Mehtonen said new routes would be found for them, such as to and from Riga.
Tallink's plans for the Turku route will put competitor Viking Line to the test, as the later operates the Turku-Stockholm route with ships built in the 1980s.
Viking Line recently commissioned two new vessels for the Tallinn-Helsinki and Marie-hamn-Stockholm routes.
Tallink Silja and Viking Line both carry approximately 2 million passengers annually on the Turku-Stockholm route.
In all, Viking Line, which owns seven ships, handled 5.6 million passengers in 2006, up 4.6 percent year-on-year.
Tallink's fleet, meanwhile, increased by one last week to 21 vessels after the M/S Star, a new high-speed liner, was delivered by Aker Yards.

"With the new ship, Tallink provides year-round high speed service on the Tallinn-Helsinki route," the company said in a statement.
"Tallink Shuttle service and its schedule will be stable all through the year as the ship is able to operate under any weather conditions," the company said, adding that the new ship would cover the distance between Tallinn and Helsinki in less than two hours.
The ship, which cost 110 million euros, has 2,300 seats, 520 beds and can accommodate 1,900 passengers, the company said.
The M/S Star will squeeze out the M/S Vana Tallinn, which starting April 26 will sail between Riga and Stockholm. Tallink's Regina Baltica will continue plying the route as well.

Employees disgruntled
Tallink's employee woes have continued over recent weeks. On April 10 ship employees' unions in Estonia, Finland and Sweden said that wages in the three countries needed to be evened out.
In addition, the unions said in a statement that they would ask Tallink to create a European Works Council to ensure that the group's employees have access to information and consultation at all levels.
Tallink currently employs 6,000 people, and its rapid expansion over the past year has put it in the spotlight among Scandinavian unions. After taking over Finland's Silja Line last year, Tallink announced it would cut costs by sacking more expensive Finnish employees.

The Estonian Employers' Confederation criticized the unions' stance.
"As I see it, the unions are cutting the ground from under their own feet. If efficient management has created hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in Estonian shipping, then unjustified spending could leave Estonians without work in the future," confederation manager Tarmo Kriis said.
Tallink executives were slammed last year after an incident on board a Silja Line ship when a scuffle allegedly broke out between a Tallink executive and a barman over serving alcohol.

Sweden's union SEKO lashed out at Tallink executives, and Tallink CEO Enn Pant in turn demanded an apology from SEKO for what he described as a smear campaign.