Sea Symphony set to bring in Deutschemarks

  • 2001-05-24
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - After the closure of Riga's only passenger ferry to Stockholm last year, other solutions and travel destinations have been sought.

On May 21 a passenger ferry, the Sea Symphony, opened a twice- weekly route to Lubeck, Germany.

Latlines, the company in charge of the vessel, is based in Riga but the ship will depart from the company's own cargo terminal some 25 minutes by bus from the center of the capital.

The Sea Symphony was built with cargo in mind in 1977. After renovations in Italy in 1995, the ship was upgraded and given license to allow passengers onboard. However, the ship will continue to function as a cargo ship as well.

The ship has 108 bunks in 40 cabins. They all come equipped with showers, toilets and air-conditioning.

Latlines President Zigmunds Jankovskis said the ship has a capacity of 210 passengers and that there are some 50 places for cars.

When asked by The Baltic Times why this ferry line will succeed considering other Latvian companies have failed in sustaining traffic from Riga across the Baltic Sea, Jankovskis said: "The Latvian economy is much better now, and people can afford to travel."

Latvian Mono Line is the latest in a long line of failed attempts in trying to keep a passenger route between Riga and Stockholm. Their vessel, the Mikhail Sholohov, ran for less than a year before being pulled out of the water.

Before the Sholohov, the ferries Ilyich and Rusj failed on the same route in the 1990s. Both those ships were arrested and detained in Stockholm's port after failing to pay docking fees.

All three ships were flying under the Russian flag, and this is something Jankovskis believes was a mistake

"Swedish tourists under a Russian flag; I don't think they thought it was a good idea," he said.

The Sea Symphony is sailing under the Cyprus flag and has a Greek captain. The deck crew is from Burma and India, while the restaurant crew is Latvian.

On its first trip to Lubeck on May 21 only 20 passengers booked passage. However, there is hope that this number will increase as Riga's 800th anniversary this year draws closer.

Gastons Ceksters, a spokesman for Latlines, pointed out what he saw as a big advantage going to Lubeck, located about 60 kilometers north of Hamburg.

"It is only 300 meters to the autobahn from the terminal in Lubeck, and from there it is possible to go fast by car in any direction on the European continent," Ceksters said.

Company representatives were not the only ones excited over the new source of potential income from Western Europe.

"It doesn't matter where we have a passenger ferry line to," said Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars. "We are just happy for every step toward improving tourism in Latvia."

Bojars said he has hopes for more ferry lines from Latvia to various cities in northern Europe, including Stockholm and Helsinki.

Ticket prices with Latlines start at 58 lats ($93) for a one-way ticket in a four-bunk cabin. The cheapest round-trip ticket in the same kind of cabin will cost 102 lats.

Taking one's car will cost an additional 102 lats both ways. A motorcycle will cost 64 lats round trip, but a bus with more than 20 passengers goes for free.

Children up to age three travel free and children aged 12 and under receive a 50 percent discount. The Sea Symphony leaves Riga on Mondays and Fridays, 12 p.m. and 8 a.m. respectively. From Lubeck it will depart at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 p.m. on Saturdays.