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Estonia`s Saaremaa, Latvia's Ventspils preparing procurement for ferry route

BC, Tallinn, 29.10.2018.Print version
Representatives of the Estonian island municipality of Saaremaa met with officials of Latvia's Ventspils free port and the city government to discuss a plan to reactivate the Montu-Ventspils shipping service, informed LETA/BNS.

"There is interest on both sides and, at the moment, drafting of the specifications of the tender for the operator is in the works. We would like for the service to start operating in the summer period next year," assistant rural municipality mayor of Saaremaa Marili Niits told.

Niits added that in order to be able to reactivate the service next summer, the parties intend to announce the procurement as quickly as possible, as a procurement always tends to entail contestations.\

Representatives of Saaremaa and Ventspils decided in June they would start looking for a suitable passenger ferry for the proposed summer service.

"The meeting that took place in Ventspils was intended to demonstrate on the level of the Saaremaa municipality that we are very much interested in a relaunch of the Montu-Ventspils ship route, particularly as representatives of Ventspils have displayed interest on their part as well," the governor of the Saaremaa municipality, Madis Kallas, said at the time.

Using a high-speed craft is not currently on the table, instead the parties are looking for a vessel able to carry cars, too. The aim is to launch the service in the summer of 2019 for the duration of three months from mid-May to mid-August.

According to a study about the viability of a boat service between Estonia's largest island and Latvia, commissioned by the NGO Saarte Koostookogu from the company OU Arenguruum, opening a ferry service would be socio-economically viable but would rather be unprofitable when carried out on a commercial basis alone.

The study examined the possibilities of opening the Montu-Ventspils and Kuressaare-Riga ferry routes. The company AS Kihnu Veeteed with the vessel Reet is interested in the Montu-Ventspils route and Sea Wolf Express OU with the vessel A-902 is interested in the Roomassaare-Riga route.

According to the study, based on an optimistic scenario, the Montu-Ventspils route would need an annual subsidy of more than 100,000 euros in the first years, but would become self-sufficient within eight years. Based on a pessimistic scenario, the necessary sum of support would be approximately 300,000 euros per year.

The study said that based on an optimistic scenario, opening the Montu-Ventspils route would entail socio-economic income for Saaremaa from tourism in the amount of 2-3 mln euros per year and on the basis of a conservative scenario it would total 1-2 mln euros per year. In a positive case, the ferry route would bring 10,000-20,000 more tourists per year to Estonia's biggest island, while the number of additional tourists in the worst case would be 7,000-11,000.

According to the study whose findings were published in March, tourism in the Baltic Sea region is increasing. Saaremaa and Ventspils are important tourist destinations in their respective countries and are interested in being a part of the development that accompanies tourism growth. This is why the local governments of Saaremaa and Ventspils and entrepreneurs involved in tourism, including port operators, are strongly interested in restarting the erstwhile Montu-Ventspils ferry route. In addition, Saaremaa is interested in opening ferry service in the direction of Riga as the largest city of the Baltics.

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