"Savisaars" force out Port of Tallin CEO

  • 2005-06-29
  • Staff & wire reports
TALLIN - Port of Tallinn CEO Mart Tooming filed his resignation on June 28, following criticism from state-appointed members of the supervisory council. The port said in its report to the Tallinn Stock Exchange that until a new board chairman is found board member Ain Kaljurand will act as chairman.

The resignation is the latest in a continuing exodus of top executives at the Baltics' largest port since the new government was formed in April.

Particularly, Vilja Savisaar, an MP and newly appointed member to the Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn) council, recently struck out at Tooming, saying she was unsatisfied with Tooming's vision for the port. Savisaar is the wife of Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Center Party and minister of economy in the new Cabinet.

"To my mind, the strategy doesn't pay enough attention to how to survive in tightening competition with the developing Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian ports and develop further," Vilja Savisaar was quoted as saying.

Admitting that there was little Estonia and the Port of Tallinn could do about Russia's policy to develop its own ports on the Gulf of Finland, Vilja Savisaar said, "This does not mean the managers of the port should resign themselves to it spreading their hands. New cargoes have to be sought and cooperation with Russian ports intensified by sharing freight flows."

Edgar Savisaar had not yet made his view on the port public.

Tooming's resignation follows the departure of other executives. Aare Tammemae, the council member in charge of finance, resigned on June 6, while marketing director Erik Sakkov stepped down on June 14.

Neinar Seli, chairman of the port's supervisory council, admitted that the resignations of the executive board were the direct result of changes in the supervisory council that came once the new government took power over two months ago.

"We can indeed say that the reason for the resignations is changes in the supervisory council, or replacement of members of Res Publica with those of the Center Party in the supervisory council," Seli told reporters on June 28.

Part of Vilja Savisaar's criticism focused on overall cargo handling at the port. "Profit exists, but freight flows have slightly declined," she said in the beginning of June after studying the port's results.

However, her words seem to contradict data the port has issued. In April, for instance, the port handled over 3.6 million tons of goods, a historic record for the month. In the first four months of the year, the port handled 13.2 million tons of freight, 2.4 percent more than during the same period in 2004.

Cargo turnover in the first five months amounted to 16.5 million tons, or 1.5 percent more than the analogous period last year.

Indeed, these results had emboldened Tooming, who as early as a month ago was unfazed by the talk of possible resignation. "The Port of Tallinn remains number one in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea, ahead of both Klaipeda and Ventspils, Polish and Finnish ports," he was quoted as saying. The port's freight turnover grew 8 percent last year, he added.

Tooming became board chairman of the port in April 2004 when Riho Rasmann left the post.