The origins of the Tallink brand date back to 1989, when a company named Tallink was founded as a Finnish-Soviet joint venture. The joint venture was primarily intended to transport tourists on the approximately 80 kilometer sea-route between Helsinki and Tallinn. In 1990, its first year of operation, the company operated only one chartered vessel, M/S Tallink, and transported approximately 166,000 passengers on the Helsinki-Tallinn route. In 1991, Estonia gained independence, which rapidly increased the country’s appeal as a tourist destination, mostly among the Finnish public. To respond to the growing demand, in 1993 the company chartered M/S Georg Ots, which until that time was competing with the company’s own ferry. During 1993, when the state-owned Estonian Shipping Company (“ESCO”) acquired all of the shares in the company, the company also achieved the milestone of transporting one million passengers annually.
In 1994, an operating company named EMINRE was established to continue the use of the Tallink brand. By the mid-1990s, the Helsinki – Tallinn market had evolved as more and more passengers started to prefer a quicker form of transport to the more leisurely cruise concept. As a result, the high-speed ferries were introduced on the Helsinki-Tallinn route. These were able to transport passengers between the two capitals in approximately one hour and 40 minutes, as opposed to the three and a half hours required by the conventional cruise ferries.
In 1996, a new operating company named AS Hansatee commenced operations under the Tallink brand. AS Hansatee was owned by ESCO, AS Eesti Ühispank and a second private investor, which sold its interest in AS Hansatee in 1996. In the same year, a new management team, headed by the current Chairman of Tallink’s management board and CEO Enn Pant, was brought in to improve the performance. This was accompanied by a change in ownership and a fundraising of approximately EUR 13 million, whereby management and certain companies related to Eesti Ühispank became shareholders. Tallink’s principal shareholder, Infortar, was formed in connection with this management buy-out. Consequently the present group structure was introduced and AS Hansatee became Aktsiaselts Hansatee Grupp (subsequently, renamed Aktsiaselts Tallink Grupp).
Initially all of the vessels were chartered, but the new management team changed the operating model from chartering to ship ownership in the year 1997, during which also the first three vessels were acquired.
In 1998, Tallink achieved the milestone of transporting two million passengers annually and introduced its first route between Sweden and Estonia (Kapellskär-Paldiski). The Stockholm-Tallinn route was introduced in January 2001. By acquiring additional cruise and high-speed ferries and by starting to invest into new vessels the implementation of growth strategy was continued. The first high-class cruise ferry built for Tallink, M/S Romantika, was delivered in 2002.
In 2003, a group of international institutional investors became shareholders of Tallink through an international private placement transaction. The private placement, which in total amounted to EUR 37 million, consisted of both an issue of new shares by Tallink and the sale of existing shares by Tallink’s largest shareholder, Infortar. The private placement transaction enabled to continue Tallink’s strategy to pursuit growth. In 2004 Tallink acquired two additional high-speed ferries and second ro-ro cargo vessel, launched M/S Romantika’s sister ship, M/S Victoria I and ordered another high-class cruise ferry M/S Galaxy. In 2004 Tallink also entered into the hotel business when the operations of a brand new hotel in the center of Tallinn were started.
In August 2005, Tallink placed orders for two new high-speed ro-pax ferries intended to improve our high-speed service between Helsinki and Tallinn. One ferry, M/S Star, was delivered and she started the Tallink Shuttle service in spring 2007. The next high speed ferry M/S Superstar, went into production in Fincantieri shipyards in Italy and was delivered in spring 2008 being a further improvement of the Shuttle service. After the initial public offering of shares Tallink was listed in Tallinn Stock Exchange in November 2005.
In December, 2005, Tallink placed an order for a new cruise ferry which was delivered in summer 2008. It is a sister ship to the brand new M/S Galaxy which started operating between Helsinki and Tallinn in April 2006. In 2006 Tallink expanded its market reach on three occasions. First, in April Tallink acquired three Superfast ferries and started operating between Finland and Germany. Also in April, the new route between Riga and Stockholm was established as Tallink started the traffic with one vessel. In July Tallink acquired part of Silja Line’s business from Sea Containers and entered the market between Finland and Sweden.
The history of Silja Line dates back to late 1800’s. The service between Turku and Stockholm was set up during 1918 and a service between Helsinki and Stockholm was launched later. Further ships were added to these routes in the early 1950s as the passenger volumes grew rapidly.
The previous owner of Silja Line, Sea Containers, acquired a substantial minority stake in Silja in 1999, and bought the Business outright in June 2002, subsequently de-listing it from the Helsinki Stock Exchange in January 2003.
Consequently the years 2006 and 2007 have been the period of the integration process of Tallink and Silja Line. As a result of the integration AS Tallink Grupp and its subsidiaries are operating under brands of Tallink and Silja and the offices in Finland, Sweden and Germany have been merged.
In March 2007 AS Tallink Grupp launched the new Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel in central Tallinn, which is the next development for the hotel network Tallink Hotels.
In April 2007 an order for the fifth new cruise ferry was placed. The cruise ferry with the code name Cruise 5 is planned to start operating on Tallinn-Helsinki route in summer 2009.
The second business development in April 2007 was the addition of the second vessel, M/S Vana Tallinn, to the Riga-Stockholm route and starting daily ferry traffic on this international shipping route.
In October 2007, the second vessel for Shuttle service between Tallinn and Helsinki was christened and launched in Fincantieri Shipyards, Italy.
The year 2007 was a successful year for AS Tallink Grupp as the company was awarded the best Estonian company of the year 2007 by three important organizations – Enterprise Estonia, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Estonian Employers Confederation. Tallink was granted the „Entrepreneurship Award 2007“ as well as the top award of the „Most Competitive Estonian Companies Ranking 2007“. With that Tallink became the first company in the history to win both main awards in the same year. In addition AS Tallink Grupp was also the winner of the „Tourism Innovator 2007“ award. The year 2008 has bought along again many positive developments.
In spring the Tallink Shuttle service was completed by launching the second Shuttle vessel M/S Superstar to the Tallinn-Helsinki route.
A cornerstone was set to the new Tallink headquarters building in Tallinn.
In May Tallink started a taxi company in Tallinn, Tallink Takso. The high quality taxi service provides most reliable and comfortable taxi services in the capital of Estonia with yellow Mercedes-Benz and Audi vehicles and a modern communication center.
In summer, the brand new cruise ferry M/S Baltic Princess was delivered and started operating on Tallinn-Helsinki route. The launching of Baltic Princess enabled altogether three successful reroutings. Additionally to Tallinn-Helsinki route, also Turku-Stockholm route and Riga-Stockholm route became a newer vessel. M/S Galaxy took the place of M/S Silja Festival on Turku-Stockholm route and Festival changed the places with M/S Vana Tallinn on Riga-Stockholm route.
In summer, Tallink Hotels hotel chain was added a third hotel - Pirita TOP Spa Hotel in Tallinn. In September, Tallink announced the plan to start operating a fourth hotel in Tallinn from 2009 - Express Hotel in Tallinn harbour area.
Also in 2008 AS Tallink Grupp was voted the most competitive Estonian company and the most competitive Estonian tourism operator in 2008 by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Estonian Employer’s Confederation. Additionally, according to the survey of TNS Emor, Tallink was voted as one of the best employers in Estonia in 2007 and 2008.
In the last financial year 2007/2008 AS Tallink Grupp transported over seven million passengers, more than ever before.
In December 2008, the newest cruise ferry M/S Baltic Queen was christened and launched in Rauma, Finland.
In January 2009 the hotel chain Tallink Hotels was added the fourth hotel - Tallink Express Hotel.
In April 2009 the new head office building in Tallinn was completed. The new cruise ferry Baltic Queen was delivered and started operating on Tallinn-Stockholm route in April 2009 as well. Baltic Queen replaced thereby M/S Romantika, which now operates on Riga-Stockholm route replacing M/S Regina Baltica.
In May 2009 the corner stone for new hotel in Riga was set.
In July the company reached record passenger volumes per calendary month with over 1 million passengers. The overall passenger volume of the financial year 2008/2009 was also record high with over 8.1 million passengers.
In April 2010 the fifth hotel, Tallink Hotel Riga was opened. The overall passenger volume of the financial year 2009/2010 was a record high of 8.43 million passengers. The loyalty programme Club One gained 60 000 new members making a total 620 000 loyal households.
On September 7th at the entrepreneurship awards ceremony Tallink Grupp was named the winner of Estonian Companies Competitive Chart 2010 by Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Estonian Employers’ Confederation.