Riga-Stockholm ferry to restart

  • 2002-04-04
  • Jorgen Johansson

The Latvian ferry company Rigas Juras Linijas will revive the ferry line between Stockholm and Riga this spring.

A previous attempt to restart the route failed because the ship the company wanted to use, the aging Georg Otts, was bought by a Norwegian company.

This time the Latvian company will charter the Danish-owned ferry Max Mols, but it is not yet decided which route the ferry will take.

"We are looking into the possibility of going between Riga and (the Swedish city) Nynashamn," said Rigas Juras Linijas director Miks Ekbaums. "This would be cheaper and means we could drop the ticket prices by 20 lats ($32)."

He said the trip would only take six hours since Nynashamn is 48 kilometers south of the Swedish capital.

The Max Mols can carry 800 passengers and 260 cars. The ship flies under the Danish flag and is only three years old. The boat would run every other day.

The director said the starting price for a round trip from Riga to Stockholm would be 109 lats.

"When we start April 25, we will give a 20 percent discount," Ekbaums said.

The company also plans to include the Estonian island Saaremaa on the route.

Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars told BNS that the route would be profitable because some 400,000 Swedes travel to the island every year. Cargo shippers are also watching the route's development.

"Swedish cargo companies have said that they are interested in having a ferry between Riga and Stockholm, but they haven't said anything about investing any money," said Ekbaums.

The Riga City Council may take a 26 percent stake in the new company, Bojars said, because then the municipality would have some veto rights on the ferry company's operations.

Because there have already been three failed attempts to run a successful ferry line between Stockholm and Riga, the municipality is keen to partly supervise operations.

The City Council has long been trying to attract Swedish ferry companies to operate on the route.

Stockholm municipal officials earlier said that Scandinavians have voiced concerns about the chaotic nature of business at Riga's port.

Aira Andriksone, head of the tourism department at the Ministry of Environment and Regional Development, said it was too early to forecast the route's chances of survival.

"There was a limited number of Swedish tourists on the ferries earlier so it's difficult to say if the amount of tourists from Sweden declined during the time when the ferry was down," Andriksone said. "Also, we don't have the latest statistical figures from last year yet."