He said that the governments of both countries should take a decision on travel restrictions by the beginning of June, otherwise the renewal of the Helsinki-Riga route this summer would be very problematic.
The Covid-19 pandemic severely damaged the tourism sector and international transport. Ferry traffic and Estonian ferry operator Tallink also suffered. In the first quarter of this year the Tallink group worked with a turnover 65% smaller than in the first quarter last year, while the company's losses increased by nearly 14%, exceeding EUR 34 million.
Currently, Tallink operates on several routes, including two ferries and one cargo ship between Tallinn and Helsinki, with two cargo ships from Estonia to Sweden, as well as two vessels between Finland and Sweden. This line is operated with the support of the Finnish government because it has an important cargo flow between the two countries. While the flow on these routes has grown, Nõgene said that overall demand is low.
“Tourism between countries is not allowed and the Finnish government also limited travel for work purposes, so Estonians can no longer go so easily on business trips to Finland. At the same time, though, given that cargo needs to be transported and it gives steady revenue, that's better than nothing. But we certainly expect the situation to be better in early June or July, at least between Estonia and Finland,” said Nõgene.
This is not the case for ferry traffic between Stockholm and Riga, launched in 2006. The ferry operator has not yet resumed scheduled services between the Latvian and Swedish capitals due to the pandemic. The ferry was last on this route in December, but no passengers have been transported since then. The Tallink line isn't planning to restore the route this year.
“This route is very long and it is not beneficial only with freight and passenger cars. And this route does not have a support mechanism from Sweden or Latvia, so we had to suspend it. We will not renew the Riga-Stockholm route this year,” he said.
After such a big pandemic, rebuilding this route with two ferries isn't realistic because the risks are very high. For this reason, one ferry should be launched, so the Chairman of the Tallink Board hopes to re-establish the route between Rīga and Helsinki, which was very popular last year.
“But it depends on the limits. We still don't know who will be able to enter Latvia in the summer and on what rules. As far as I can see, the Latvian Government has not yet taken any decisions on tourism for July, August, and so on. First of all, we look forward to the rules on access to Latvia and at the same time the issue of the situation in Latvia with Covid-19 remains open. And this is not just a matter for the Latvian government, it is also a matter for the Finnish government, because the route is between Helsinki and Riga and the two governments have to make decisions. If there is no such information, or if the governments have not decided by the beginning of June at the latest, it will be very difficult to open any route from Riga in July,” Nõgene said.