Number of passengers between mainland, Estonia's large islands hits new record

  • 2023-09-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Ferries of TS Laevad, the Tallinna Sadam subsidiary that operates subsidized ferry services between the mainland and Estonia's large western islands, carried a total of 1,039,497 passengers and 437,252 vehicles on the Muhu/Saaremaa and Hiiumaa ferry lines this summer, marking a new all-time high for the three months from June to August.

Compared to the summer of 2022, the numbers of both passengers and vehicles grew by 4 percent, Katrin Aron, head of services and commerce and member of the management board of TS Laevad, said in a press release.

Compared to the previous busiest summer, the summer of of 2019, there were 1 percent more passengers this year. The number of passengers crossed the one million mark again, which was narrowly missed in the summer of 2022.

A total of 735,608 passengers and 313,583 vehicles were carried on the Virtsu-Kuivastu route between the mainland and the islands of Muhu/Saaremaa during the three months. On the Hiiumaa, or Rohukula-Heltermaa route, passengers numbered 303,889 and vehicles 123,669.

The number of vehicles from foreign countries increased by 10 percent compared to the summer of 2022, accounting for 14 percent of all vehicles. The number and share of foreign vehicles was higher than that only in the summer of 2019.

"We are almost back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of the numbers of foreign visitors and are again an attractive destination for international tourists. Foreign visitors to the islands come mainly from our neighboring countries -- Finland, Norway, Latvia, but also from Germany and Poland," Aron said.

She added that the summer season in the island ferry services starts in May and continues into September.

During the first eight months of 2023, the company carried 1,767,203 passengers and 805,155 vehicles on the two lines. The number of passengers is 5 percent and the number of vehicles 3 percent higher than a year ago, and both figures represent a new all-time high. During the eight months, ferries of TS Laevad operated 15,872 departures, of which 99.2 percent departed on time. 

The backup ferry, Regula, made a total of 430 departures over the summer, from June 1 to Aug. 28. In the summer of 2022, Regula made 436 additional trips. According to the agreement with the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture, the backup ferry can make up to 536 departures this year, until Sept. 17.

Normally, both the Virtsu-Kuivastu and Rohukula-Heltermaa routes are served by two ferries each.