St. Petersburg is going to be left without a ferry service for 2018 as the only ferry operator, MOBY SPL (till 2016 St. PeterLine), is struggling to sign a contract for rent berths and other facilities at the Sea Vokzal, the only sea passenger terminal in the city fit for the company. The reason is that the terminal was brought into court by the city’s authorities over rent payments and now under threat of losing its business.
There are two sea passenger terminals in St. Petersburg:
• the Sea Vokzal built in 1982, owned by the city and operated by private investors under an agreement signed in 1998 and expiring in 2047;
• Sea terminal The Marine Façade, put into operation in 2009, serving almost all cruise ships calling at St. Petersburg.
Ferry Princess Anastasia, the only ship operated by MOBY SPL in St. Petersburg and the only ferry in the city, is served by the Sea Vokzal for some reasons, the most important of which is that the terminal is capable of handling ro-ro cargoes, which a substantial part of MOBY’s business. The Marine Façade is working on building the infrastructure to handle ro-ro too, but right now is not ready for it.
Every year the ferry company and the Sea Vokzal sign a contract for MOBY SPL to use the terminal’s facilities.
the Sea Vokzal
As MOBY SPL’s CEO Sergey Kotenev told the Kommersant business newspaper, the Sea Vokzal is now in court battle with city authorities who say that the terminal owes the city additional 18 mln rubles and want to break the 1998 agreement. “We got approvals of our 2018 schedule from all government bodies and other entities, except the Sea Vokzal. They say they cannot sign the contract as they’re not sure that they will stay in business”, Kotenev said to the Kommersant.
The paper also said without identifying the source that if things are not settled till the end of 2017, Princess Anastasia can be transferred to the Mediterranean Sea where MOBY company has extensive ferry business.
That’s not what both MOBY SPL and the city authorities obviously want.
According to Kotenev, 60% of Princess Anastasia’s capacity for the next year has already been distributed via wholesalers, i. e. tour companies and so on. “We want guarantees from the city government that the Sea Vokzal’s capacities will be available for us to use, then we’re ready to open direct sales” said Kotenev. He added that the company sent a letter to the city’s governor Georgy Poltavchenko asking him to handle the situation.
The 2017 navigation was rather successful for the company which reportedly will have transported 320,000 passengers by the end of the year between St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Tallinn and Stockholm. Next year, the volume is envisaged to increase by 25% with first departure planned on March 25, 2018.
Governor’s reaction is not known. St. Petersburg Tourism Committee’s chairman Andrey Mushkarev told media at a recent press-conference that the MOBY SPL’s top management is artificially exaggerating the problem which is not that big as Sergey Kotenev wants it to look like.
Interestingly that Mushkarev had been working as a chief of marketing at St. Peterline before his appointment as a tourism committee’s chairman last year.