Tallinn-Stockholm shipping line had an anniversary on June 17th – on the same date 25 years ago in 1990 with the first trip of the ferry Nord Estonia the regular ferry connection between Estonia and Sweden was re-established after a pause of 50 years.
„The re-establishment of the Tallinn-Stockholm line 25 years ago was of significant importance for both, Estonians and Swedes, “ described Hans Laidwa, the initiator of the shipping line and a man, who had to leave Estonia as a refugee when he was one year old. „Despite all the difficulties that were connected to the bureaucracy of the time and rules regulating the communication with the outside world, we together with Estonian partners were able to establish a new shipping line within 1.5 years”.
According to Port of Tallinn’s Chairman of the Management Board Ain Kaljurand the ferry connection with Stockholm has been a priority of Port of Tallinn’s passenger traffic, also a factor that has influenced port developments during all those years and also nowadays.
“The establishment of the Stockholm line carries on a story of Estonian seamen’s and maritime people’s entrepreneurial mind and their perseverance of finding possibilities despite the difficulties,” said Kaljurand. “Connecting Estonia and Sweden 25 years ago was during that time of change a step of great importance for both countries, and it serves as a particularly good example of the skill of finding from historical opportunities those possibilities that bring benefits in the future and seem almost self-evident when looking back.”
Hans Laidwa, who during that time worked as a director of the sub company of the Nordström & Thulin shipping line, started to look for possibilities of establishing the line in January 1989, whereas he got help with the contacts from the leader of the Swedish Moderate Party Carl Bildt, who became the Prime Minister of Sweden in 1991. In spring the same year, the public was also informed about the wish to establish the shipping line.
“With many things we had to start from zero – build terminals to Tallinn and Stockholm, get the ship and negotiate with the Soviet officials until they agreed to allow Swedes to visit Tallinn visa-free, which during that time seemed almost as an unbelievable breakthrough,” Laidwa recalled.
The new shipping line was named EstLine and the ship sailing the line was named Nord Estonia. The vessel left Stockholm first time in June 17th, 1990.
“The ship’s arrival to Tallinn was really festive. We were welcomed by folk musicians and people wearing Estonian national clothes gave passengers Estonian national flowers – cornflowers as a welcoming present,” said Laidwa. “The symbolic opening event of the shipping line was held in the evening of June 17th on board of Nord Estonia, during which the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament of the time, Thage G. Peterson, and his Estonian colleague Ülo Nugis platted together the ribbon that had colours of both countries’ national flags represented.”
By today, a total of 13 million people have travelled on the line between Stockholm and Tallinn. The line that originally started out with one ferry has now two Tallink ferries sailing every day, with daily departures from both capitals.
During the shipping line’s 25th anniversary celebration the Swedish Ambassador Anders Ljunggren, the initiator of the line Hans Laidwa, Port of Tallinn’s Chairman of the Management Board Ain Kaljurand, the Captain of the ferry Victoria I Meelis Puura and Port of Tallinn’s Harbour Master Ülo Kikas welcomed the passengers of Victoria I, the ship that arrived to Tallinn on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015.
See the picture gallery of the celebration in Passenger Terminal D here >>
Additional information: Sirle Arro, Head of Marketing and Communication, Port of Tallinn, Ph. 631 8068, e-mail: [email protected]