TALLINN - The supervisory council of Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn) has decided not to change its earlier decision of significantly raising the price of port services beginning in 2005.
The council discussed the subject of port fees for several hours on Nov. 12, even though changing the fee system was not under discussion, chairman of the supervisory body Eero Tohver said. Members of the council appointed by the Finance Ministry failed to consider a possible review of the earlier decision and even threatened to leave the meeting if the issue was raised, Tohver added.
"The economy minister-appointed council members clearly followed the minister's instructions to once again weigh whether [the higher port fees] are justified or not," he said.
According to Tohver, the council will no longer have time during its regular planned meetings to alter fees scheduled for Jan. 1, since certain procedures have to be adhered to in order to confirm the new fees.
The next regular meeting of the body is scheduled for the start of December.
In principle, Minister of Economy and Communications Andrus Ansip could convene an extraordinary supervisory council meeting on the eve of the port's general shareholder meeting. Ansip said earlier that the council should thoroughly consider the planned hike, and has spoken out against raising fees levied on passenger ships.
As a result of the new fee system, the charge for tankers will increase by 48 percent and for other cargo ships by 2 percent, while passenger ships will have to pay 11 percent more. The plan also envisages lowering port dues for cruise ships by 10 percent.
Port of Tallinn executives claim that the fee-hike does not pose a threat to business volumes at the port, the largest in the Baltics. Transit companies, however, claim the opposite. For instance, the Tallink shipper, which operates passenger boats, has said it would consider raising ticket prices if port fees increase.
Two weeks ago the shipping policy committee of the European Community Ship-owners Association said it would back the Estonian Shipowners Association and send the port's price-rise plan to the EU's competition authority for review.
Toivo Ninnas, president of ESA and a member of the board of directors of ECSA, earlier sent the shipping policy committee a memorandum in which shipowners expressed their grievances with the state-owned port.
"As a result of high port fees, the profitability of the Port of Tallinn is nearly 50 percent," the shipowners' memorandum said.
"When the fees were raised to the present level it was presented by the Port of Tallinn as a temporary measure to finance the construction of passenger terminals. According to calculations by shipowners, the terminals broke even long ago and are making a profit," the memorandum said.