TALLINN - SuperSeaCat, the once widely-used fast ferry company servicing the popular Tallinn-Helsinki route, made an official statement on Oct. 16 closing all operations.
Simo Zitting, chairman of the Finnish Seamen's Union, told the Finnish News Agency that the company's closure could leave 150 employees, the majority of them Estonian, without work. The Finnish-owned company has cited rising fuel costs, funding constraints due to the global economic crisis, and tough competition as reasons for going into liquidation.
"Financial troubles have reached such a level that it's not possible to continue operating without financial injections," Peter Walker, CEO of SuperSeaCat, said in a press release. Walker also made assurances that any pre-purchased tickets will be refunded.
Meanwhile, another fast ferry operator, Nordic Jet Line, has stopped services long before the scheduled end of season prompting concerns that the company may be in similar strife.
Jorma Taina, a professor at the University of Turku in Finland, said there has been a shift in the Tallinn-Helsinki ferry market caused by the introduction of fast high-capacity ships.
According to Taina, the companies operating these carriers 's namely Tallink and Viking Line 's are driving them out competition. With higher capacity, moderately fast speeds and the ability to travel year-round the new ferries are making the seasonal high-speed services offered by smaller companies obsolete.
Taina suggests that these small high-speed services have lost their niche in the market, and consequently expects Linda Line and Eckero Line 's which run similar services to SuperSeaCat 's to buckle shortly.
On the other hand, Copterline, the helicopter service operating between Tallinn and Helsinki, has seen an increase in business; its 18 minute journey now the most dependable option for those needing a quick crossing, such as the business community.
The company looks set to fill the gap in the market that would be left by the collapse of small high-speed ferry companies, and in addition has recently announced the opening of a new charter route between Helsinki and the Estonian resort-town Narva-Joesuu.
The company, which operates 10 flights daily from Tallinn to Helsinki, is trialling the new charter flights as a means for Finnish businessmen to return home for the weekend; the flight will leave for the Finnish capital on Friday evening, and make the return trip on Sunday.
Mayor of Narva-Joesuu, Andres Noormagi, said the idea arose after meetings with Finnish managers operating out of the costal resort-town.
"Quite a few of them have appeared here lately and at one of the first meetings it was mentioned that their families are far away and it takes a lot of time to get home to Finland," Noormagi said.
While Copterline anticipates increased business with the changing dynamics of the Tallinn-Helsinki ferry trade, they have stressed that the new route is a private charter.
"These are charter flights for us. This is not a regular service and we won't be selling tickets for it," said Tonis Lepp, head of Copterline's Estonian branch.