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The alternate member Lauri Vahtre took the oath of office before the Riigikogu. 

In the Riigikogu, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to the interpellation concerning concerning the future of ferry traffic (No 369), submitted by Kalle Laanet, Lembit Kaljuvee, Rainer Vakra, Deniss Boroditsh, Kalev Kotkas, Jaan Õunapuu, Helmen Kütt, Eiki Nestor, Heljo Pikhof, Neeme Suur, Rein Randver, Indrek Saar, Andres Anvelt and Inara Luigas on 20 November. 

The interpellators were concerned about the future of ferry traffic and wished to be informed of the planned changes. The interpellators wished to know when and by whom an analysis or cost-benefit study had been carried out before the single shareholder had decided to procure four ferries. 

In Parts’ words, the Ministry of Economics and Communications had started the analysis of procuring the ferries in October 2011. As a result of the specification of different schemes and presumptions, the proposal approved by the Government had been reached some months ago. Parts pointed out the starting points for making the decision: procuring of the ferries by the state would be significantly cheaper for the taxpayer than continuing with today’s system. “The saving will come mostly from lower freight charges in comparison to today. On the basis of today’s information, the amount of savings would be approximately six million euro per year in event of three ferries. As compared with the freight charges of four ferries under the current conditions, the saving for taxpayers would amount to the range of eight million euro per year,” Parts explained. He added that the saved six million euro per year would account for more than 40% of the current support. “On account of the saving, it would actually be possible to finance the building or purchase of a fourth ferry,” Parts said. If the ferries are procured into the ownership of a state company, it will allow for actual competition in the competition for an operator of regular services, in addition to the saving of financial resources. As a result of the analysis, a solution to ensure ferry connection which is optimal and more purposeful for the state has been developed. “According to it, a company owned by the state will procure four new or second-hand ferries and they will be chartered to the operator who wins the competition within the framework of a later competition for an operator,” Parts said. 

According to the Minister’s explanations, there has been no market competition in the ferry connection between islands and the mainland in the last 20 years. Since 1994, one operator has been operating on these lines, despite the fact that several competitions to find an operator have been announced. The expenses per trip in these regular services have increased by two to three times in the period of 2000–2012. The growth of the expenses is partly due to a rise in quality but, in general, the conclusion of a new contract for public regular services has always brought about an additional rise in the expenses and the supports paid by the state. The expenses of public regular services increased dramatically as a result of the competition in 2006. For example, in 2007, the expenses of the ferry connection were higher by 4.4 million euro, that is, by more than 40%, than before the competition. 

The interpellators wished to know if it was not hopelessly too late to organise the public procurement for designing and building four new ferries and putting them into service on 1 January 2016. Parts found that it was not too late. He explained that if new ferries will be built as a result of the competition, and some of them may indeed be ready later than in October 2016, then a public procurement will have to be announced in the meantime under the same conditions as has been the case so far. The state does not have to conclude a contract of operation for ten years; it may be done for a shorter period of time until the ferries procured by the state company will be ready to take up the regular services. “In consideration of the previous discussions that have been held with the current ferry owner and its representatives, we cannot talk about an inevitable need to build a new ferry. We are still waiting for the owners of the ferries servicing the lines at the moment to also join the competition and offer the service,” Parts said. 

The Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas replied to interpellations concerning the family physicians system (No 365), the health insurance of conscripts (No 366) and the reform of emergency medical care (No 371). 

During the open microphone, Viktor Vassiljev took the floor. 

Photos of taking the oath of office: https://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/2014/Riigikogu/Vahtre/

The Riigikogu Press Service