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Finnish ferry passengers make historic shift: More travel to Estonia than Sweden

In the first six months of this year - and for the first time ever - Finnish ferry passengers made more trips to Estonia than Sweden. Transport Agency statistics show that in the six months to June Estonia accounted for 48.1 percent of passenger ferry journeys, with Sweden trailing behind with 46.1 percent.

Viking- ja Silja Linen laivat satamassa
Finnish ferry travel grew last year. Image: Mauri Ratilainen / AOP

Estonia is now the preferred destination for Finnish ferry passengers, surpassing Sweden for the first time ever during the first half of this year, according to new figures from the Transport Agency.

Ferry trips between Finland and Estonia constituted 48.1 percent of the total, with Sweden trailing behind on 46.1 percent. Ferry traffic in total grew by 2.2 percent, with traffic to Estonia increasing by a healthy 4.3 percent.

In all, some 8.65 international ferry trips were made in the first half of the year.

Traffic to Estonia has been rising steeply since the start of the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, but this is the first time since the agency's statistics on ferry transport began in 1980 that travel south across the Gulf of Finland has outstripped that to Sweden, across the Gulf of Bothnia.

Åland tax loophole

Traditionally Finnish ferry transport has been boosted by tax free alcohol purchases thanks to the special status of Finland's autonomous Åland archipelago, which has a different tax regime, allowing Finns to escape their government's monopoly alcohol retailer and high sales tax.

In recent years that travel has shifted to Estonia, with the port of Tallinn just 2 hours from Helsinki on the faster ferries. Stockholm, on the other hand, is a full 16 hours' sailing from the Finnish capital by cruise ship.

As Estonia has progressively tightened alcohol taxation in recent years, many of those booze cruise journeys have shifted further south to Latvia.

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