On July 7, Port of Tallinn celebrated the 50year anniversary of re-establishing regular ferry service between Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
"Re-establishing sea traffic in 1965 after 25 years was a symbolic gesture that restored Estonian-Finnish connection broken at the dawn of World War II and slowly but soundly it opened Estonia to the outside world," Mr. Ain Kaljurand told, the CEO of Port of Tallinn.
While in the middle of 1950s only a couple of hundred of tourists from Finland visited Estonia, there were already 15 000 visitors after reopening the ferry line. From 1965 until 1990, as much as 3 million Finnish tourists visited Estonia.
"These numbers may look small compared to today, when in this year’s June alone over 1 million people travelled between Tallinn and Helsinki. But if we put this into the past context, these tens of thousands of foreigners helped to transform a once closed town again into an open maritime city," Kaljurand added.
On the occasion of shipping line’s 50th anniversary, Ain Kaljurand and Port of Helsinki’s Director Kimmo Mäki placed in Old City Harbour’s A-terminal a memorial shield commemorating the first journey of the ship.
One of the leading roles in reopening the shipping line belongs to the then-Finnish president Urho Kalevi Kekkonen. While visiting Estonia a year before, he expressed his hope to Estonian National Television that the sea connection between Tallinn and Helsinki will be restored. Later, Kekkonen repeated this idea to the leaders of USSR Anastas Mikojan and Leonid Brezhnev.
Motorised ship "Vanemuine", built in Bulgaria the previous year, made its maiden journey from Tallinn Cargo Harbour in the morning of July 7, 1965. On return journey to Estonia the next day first 100 passengers from Finland arrived in Estonia, among them many Finnish high officials at the time. The ferry line operated until the end of September and during its first season, "Vanemuine " and Finnish ship "Wellamo", that started on the route on July 9, served over 10 000 passengers.
Next year, "Vanemuine" was replaced with a larger vessel "Tallinn" that served passengers until 1980. After that, the route was served by the legendary ferry "Georg Ots" that became Estonia’s window to the outside world for the next 10 years.
Competition on Helsinki route started on January 8, 1990, when Estonian-Finnish joint company Tallink introduced a ferry of the same name in Old City Harbour. First hydrofoil vessels began to travel between the two capitals in June 1990. In the middle of 1990s, the Finnish companies Viking Line and Silja Line started to operate the same line.
Today, four shipping companies operate daily on the Tallinn-Helsinki route from Old City Harbour –Tallink, Viking Line and Eckerö Line. From the quay of nearby Linnahall, the catamarans of Linda Line operate between the two capitals. During the summer high season, Tallinn-Helsingi route has up to 18 departures and up to 20 000 passengers per day. In 2014, a total of 7.96 million people travelled between Tallinn and Helsinki through Old City Harbour. Together with catamarans, the total number of passengers was 8.17 million in 2014.
See the picture gallery of the conference, ceremony and the concert held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Tallinn-Helsinki ferry line here >>