Ferry passengers crossing the Baltic Sea between Finland and Estonia will see major changes to their journey when routes re-open this week.
The government is easing border restrictions with Finland’s Schengen neighbours on Thursday, a move that has been especially welcomed by Estonians living on both shores.
“When this decision was made in early April not to allow passengers to travel, lots of Estonians who work in Finland had to make the decision whether to stay with their families in Estonia or keep their jobs in Finland” says Katri Link Communications Director at Tallink Group.
“Emotionally it was a very challenging decision to make. Now all the people who had to make that decision are now looking forward to going home” she says.
There has been such strong demand for tickets on Tallink services that the company has scheduled extra crossings – even though boats will only be half full.
“We reduced passenger capacity by 50% on the ships and so we are only selling tickets up to that capacity” Link tells News Now Finland.
Tallink has removed as many seats as possible to try and guarantee social distancing for passengers on board, and not all services are open at first.
“We won’t open all the restaurants, we will be doing it gradually. We will monitor passenger behaviour and attitudes to see what they’re feeling safe with” explains Katri Link.
Crew members working with food will be wearing face and mouth coverings; where possible food will be wrapped or packaged; and hot buffets won’t be self-service, instead the food will be served by staff.
Extra security personnel will be stationed on board to keep passengers spaced apart during embarkation and disembarkation in ports; and there will be a medical team on each crossing to monitor any passengers who become ill and isolate them if necessary.
“There is normally no requirement to have a medical team on board, but the Star and Megastar had medical staff from the start of this crisis, and we will keep them on board. They’re able to make judgment calls on symptoms very quickly, and we have availability in cabins to isolate any passengers” Link explains.
Tallink had to draw up these regulations – and pages more – to reassure health authorities in Estonia and Finland that when the ferry routes opened again, it would be safe to do so.
“These services rely on everybody taking responsibility, acting responsibly and following the rules” says Katri Link.
“If people don’t take personal responsibility and follow what they’re asked to do, there’s very little chance we will continue operating.”