The Estonian government has placed an order for a fifth ferry, which will start operating on the inter-island and mainland route from 2026. This new vessel will be able to accommodate more vehicles than the currently used ferries and is completely eco-friendly.
The government has already prepared the procurement plan for the new ferry, and the concept has been developed. The new ship will be a hybrid vessel, primarily using electricity and hydrogen as fuel.
The new ferry will be slightly larger than the four recently acquired vessels. It will carry the same number of passengers as the current ones - 700 people - but will increase the vehicle capacity by 200, meaning an additional 50 cars.
However, the differences between the new ferry and the existing ones are not limited to size. Valentin Bratkov, the ferry project manager at the Transport Administration, explained to ERR that the new vessel will have two car decks and will be completely environmentally friendly, emitting zero emissions.
"The new ferry will have different energy sources, such as batteries and fuel cells, ensuring greater energy efficiency and significantly enhancing its environmental friendliness. It will be a zero-emission vessel with higher autonomy, requiring a smaller technical crew, and much more," Bratkov explained.
The new ferry will serve both the Rohuküla-Heltermaa and Virtsu-Kuivastu lines.The announcement for the design and construction tender of the ferry will be made in the second half of this year, according to Bratkov. The goal is to put the vessel into service in 2026.
"We can confidently say when the ship will be ready and has completed all the tests. But [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]], our plan is to put the ferry into service in 2026," he confirmed.
Bratkov stated that the new ferry will belong to the state.
TS Laevad currently owns four newer vessels: Tõll and Piret serve the Saaremaa-mainland route, while Tiiu and Leiger serve the Hiiumaa-mainland route. All four ships accommodate 700 passengers and 150 vehicles and began passenger operations in 2017.
The fifth ferry owned by TS Laevad is considerably older, built in 1971, and Regula started its inter-island service in Estonia in 1997.