TALLINN - Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has criticized the Port of Tallinn's plan to build a container terminal in Muuga in conjunction with China's Ningbo port, saying the project lacked a clear strategy.
Ansip said the ultimate destination of the Chinese goods was unclear and that, at full tilt, cargo flows could block up Estonia's railroads.
If Russia is the country of destination, the rail roads could not be used since this would not mesh with Russia's transportation plans. Furthermore, the eastern neighbor lacks railway stations capable of admitting large amounts of container freight, Ansip said.
He pointed out that transporting goods through Narva is restricted because of the absence of a decent bridge across the Narva River, and that the southeastern checkpoint of Luhamaa is already plagued by long lines of vehicles waiting to be cleared for entry into Russia.
Spending taxpayers' money to create queues stretching from Tallinn to Luhamaa is unjustifiable, Ansip said. He added that forwarding Chinese goods by road would not be practical.
By way of evidence, Ansip mentioned Finland, where, in his words, 130 kilometer long lines have been recorded.
Russia has said that China should take its goods straight into Russian ports and then waiting lines on the Finnish-Russian border would vanish, he said.
The Port of Tallinn and Ningbo, one of the largest ports in the world, signed an agreement on Jan. 11 on building a 2.3 billion kroon (148.9 million euros) container terminal and goods distribution center at the port of Muuga, east of Tallinn.
The terminal is supposed to be ready at the end of 2010 or early 2011.
The project has received strong backing from the minister of economy and communications, Juhan Parts.
Tension between the Reformists, which Ansip leads, and Parts, a member of the IRL union, has increased in recent months.