Promised passenger ferry line terminated

  • 2001-08-09
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Although the Saaremaa Jetline company has announced on several occasions that it will open an express passenger ferry line this summer between Riga and Saaremaa, Estonia's biggest island, it now seems this will not take place after all.

Baltic News Service reported that Saaremaa Jetline CEO Jan Henriksen sent out a letter to Latvian travel agencies July 30, stating the firm would not launch its operations, and said also that all bookings were canceled.

Moreover, Renno Tammeleht, director of Saaremaa's Roomassaare port, told BNS that the launching of the fast boat service from the Latvian capital to Saaremaa, probably not take place this year, despite repeated promises.

A spokesman at the Riga passenger port confirmed the same information to The Baltic Times - the Riga-Saaremaa line is completely canceled. Henriksen said in his letter that the launching of the ferry line was spoiled by the Norwegian firm Nordic Express, which did not provide the financing Henriksen claims they are bound to by contract. He also apologized for any inconvenience caused.

The Baltic Times has fruitlessly tried to reach representatives at Nordic Express' office in Oslo, Norway, for a comment.

Saaremaa Jetline's Riga office appears to be abandoned. There is nobody working, the door is locked and nobody is taking any phone calls. Roberts Maslihs of Hanzas Maritime Agency, which was Saaremaa Jetline's shipping agent, said he was in contact with representatives of the company not long ago and that they seemed like normal business people.

"But maybe they need some more experience in this field of business. I don't understand why it's taken them so long to get the vessel over here. They may have money problems," Maslihs suggested.

The Estonian daily Postimees reported March 2 that the ferry line was expected to carry some 40,000 passengers during this summer season. But even when the company was advertising its grand opening for May 15, it did not have a ship ready, and as the company failed obtain one their premiere date kept getting postponed.

There was talk of a 38-meter high-speed catamaran, the Saaremaa Express, with a capacity of 240 passengers, which could complete the journey from Riga to Roomassaare in two-and-a-half hours. This was the ship Nordic Express was allegedly supposed to provide financing for.