The Government has adopted Estonian Marine Policy 2012–2020 as a long-term planning basis for the marine sector.
The goal of the development plan is to use and maintain Estonia’s marine resources as much as possible and contribute to the development of the marine sector. For that purpose, the development of marine business should be supported, mainly accompanied by the improved safety of vessel traffic and other marine-related activities, the protection of marine and coastal environment and marine cultural heritage.
In 2010, the marine sector contributed 3.61% of employment and 5.5% of added value; harbours were the most profitable.
Goals of the marine sector development plan
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is responsible, above all, for the first two priorities of the marine sector development plan.
The development plan will be implemented as a co-operation effort of ministries, according to operational programmes; the current version covers the period of 2014–2016.
- Entrepreneurship environment in the marine sector is entrepreneur-friendly and competitive at international level.
- The marine sector is safe, secure and contributes to diminished environmental pollution load.
- Public sector activities support the development of the marine sector.
- The marine education, research and development activities of Estonia meet the contemporary level requirements.
- Coastal life and visiting environment are attractive and facilitate marine tourism and the development of local entrepreneurship and passing marine sector’s cultural heritage along to coming generations.
Connections with island
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications organises ferry boat traffic between the Estonian counties.
In 2006, ten year contracts were concluded with Väinamere Liinid OÜ to provide services on ferry boat lines between Virtsu-Kuivastu, Heltermaa-Rohuküla and Sõru-Triigi. The latter was updated in 2011.
In co-operation with Saare county government, a five year contract was concluded with the same company to provide ferry boat services on Ruhnu lines, between Ringsu-Pärnu and Ringsu-Roomassaare. Both ferry boat lines carry passengers from May to October, using the state owned catamaran, Runö.
Connections with small islands
Apart from the organisation of line services, the Ministry also strongly contributes to ensuring ferry boat connections with small islands and improving the quality of carriage services. Vessels have been built to provide the connections with Piirissaare (Koidula vessel), Abruka (Abro vessel) and Prangli (Wrangö vessel).
At the moment, the Estonian Maritime Administration is building vessels for the Vormsi and Kihnu lines. Connections with small islands are provided, according to the Public Transport Act, in the case of county lines by county governments or, in the case of local lines, by local governments.
Connections with islands are provided, on majority of the lines, via the harbours that belong to a state owned company, AS Saarte Liinid. The task of the enterprise is to manage and develop the harbours and ensure ferry boat connections between the mainland and inhabited islands. AS Saarte Liinid manages 18 harbours.
There are 13 ferry boat harbours: Kuivastu, Virtsu, Heltermaa, Rohuküla, Sviby, Sõru, Triigi, Kihnu, Munalaiu, Manilaiu, Abruka, Laaksaare and Piirissaare.
The largest also offer the conditions required to receive cargo vessels. The largest cargo harbour on Saaremaa island is Roomassaare harbour, which has quays that facilitate the berthing of passenger vessels, oil tankers, fishing vessels and sailing yachts.
Ringsu harbour has the capacity to service vessels that ensure connection with the mainland for inhabitants of the island. Naissaare harbours receives both passenger vessels and small boats to ensure connection with the island.
International vessel traffic
Thanks to its geographic location, Estonia has good conditions for developing international passenger ship traffic on both regular lines and services provided to cruiser ships.
International passenger ships mainly visit harbours that belong to a state-owned company, AS Tallinna Sadam. The number of passengers that used the services of the company exceeded a record level – 9 million passengers – for the first time in 2013.
AS Tallink Grupp, operating on lines between Estonia, Finland and Sweden, contributes considerably to international passenger ship traffic.
Logistics and transit
Two thirds of the exports and imports of Estonia and most of the transit is carried out through harbours.
There are currently 27 cargo harbours in Estonia. The most important are Muuga and Paldiski South Harbours, which belong to AS Tallinna Sadam, and northern Sillamäe, Kunda, Pärnu and Paldiski harbours, which are privately owned.
Estonian harbours are competitive. Apart from a good geographic location in the connecting point of transit corridors and good connections with rail and land transport systems, the largest Estonian cargo harbours also enjoy good natural conditions: they are better navigable than many other Gulf of Finland harbours because of milder ice conditions.
The depth of the harbours is also sufficient to receive large vessels, with a maximum total weight of 170,000 tons.
Liquid cargo dominates in the carriage of goods, consisting, above all, of oil products. The volume of oil products has somewhat dropped over the last years. Therefore, there is a goal to diversify the assortment and increase, in particular, the volume of container cargo.
The main function of the state is to ensure maritime safety.
This will mean the dredging and marking of shipping lanes, organisation of vessel traffic and, for example, the issue of diplomas to mariners. The organisation responsible for maritime safety is the Estonian Maritime Administration.
Pilotage services for safe marine travel are offered by a state-owned company, Estonian Pilot.
International co-operation plays an important role for ensuring maritime safety, protecting the marine environment and for the development of marine sector as an important economic sector. The most important international organisations in the marine sector are the International Maritime Organisation and the Baltic Sea marine environment protection committee, HELCOM. Estonia is a member of both organisations.