Tallink makes RoPax purchase amid COVID-19

Estonian ferry company AS Tallink Grupp has strengthened its fleet with the purchase of a roll-on/roll-off passenger (RoPax) vessel from compatriot firm Navirail OÜ.

The ship, MS Sailor, was acquired by Tallink’s subsidiary Baltic SF VIII Ltd on 30 June 2020. The RoPax is scheduled to be handed over to its new owner in Paldiski on 9 July 2020. Tallink will announce the vessel’s route and schedules in the near future.

Built in 1987 at the Gdansk shipyard in Poland, the vessel is 157 metres long and 25 metres wide with a gross tonnage of 20,921. MS Sailor has a total of 60 cabins, accommodating 23 crew and 119 passengers. In addition, it has 1,500 lane metres for RoRo cargo and pax vehicle transportation on board. The vessel’s speed is about 19 knots.

Until recently, MS sailor has been chartered out to Danish shipping company DFDS, operating on the Paldiski-Kapellskär route.

Originally built in late 1980s for Neste OY, the vessel has previously been owned by Nordö Link and Finnlines and operated until 2015 under the name Finnsailor.

MS Sailor is registered in the Cyprus Ship Registry and is going to sail under the Estonian flag, according to Tallink.

“The purchase of the RoPax vessel will strengthen Tallink fleet’s cargo capacity,” the ferry company said.

“The transaction price is €8.5 million, the the investment is not significant to the consolidated results of AS Tallink Grupp.”

„The recent crisis has made it very clear that we need to strengthen our fleet with RoPax vessels to ensure that whatever happens in the world, we are able to react to any changes fast and have the necessary flexibility within our fleet to scale up either RoRo cargo or passenger transport as necessary,” Paavo Nõgene, Tallink Grupp’s CEO, explained.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an urgent and great need to secure RoRo cargo transportation between our home markets and this was mainly done with our passenger ferries, that are geared for operating feasibly if they carry both cargo and passengers. Carrying only RoRo cargo with a minimum number of passengers with such large passenger ferries is not economically viable and can only be done for a short time with subsidies.”

„For example, at present we have increased cargo capacity on the only Estonia-Sweden route between Paldiski and Kapellsär with our passenger ferry Isabelle. The vessel predominantly transports cargo only as tourism between Estonia and Sweden is still not recommended due to the Swedish coronavirus situation, which in essence means that we are transporting over 600 empty cabins back and forth between the two countries every day. Operating passenger ferries for cargo transportation alone isn’t cost effective for our business,” he further said.

„With the above in mind and with several lessons learned from the recent pandemic, it thus makes perfect sense to diversify and strengthen our fleet for the future,” Nõgene concluded.

Ferry and cruise companies are among those that have been hurt the most from the global coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 crisis caused financial woes to many companies which are now fighting to stay afloat.

In May, Tallink secured clearance from the government on the terms of a loan worth up to € 100 million. The three-year government loan is expected to help mitigate the economic pressures the company has been experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 impact on the ferry industry.

Apart from the newest fleet addition, Tallink owns 14 vessels and operates seven ferry routes under the brand names of Tallink and Silja Line.

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