The council decided to seek an additional expert's opinion concerning changes in environmental and health protection requirements stemming from Estonia's accession to the European Union, the port of Tallinn reported.
Leaders of the Port of Tallinn and the Eurodek oil company wanted the new deep-water tanker wharf to be built as an extension of the grain key. The leading oil transit firm, Pakterminal, however, promoted an entirely new oil wharf to be constructed near the current oil terminals.
The decision was expected to stir up controversy as the business interests of various oil companies differ.
"It will not be an easy decision," Port of Tallinn vice president Erik Sakkov said before the vote. "Whatever is decided, the interest group who doesn't like it will certainly create some kind of trouble."
To help make the decision, the Port of Tallinn has ordered a survey and mock up of the proposed project from the German firm GEM Consultants BV in cooperation with Haskoning Consulting BV.
Meanwhile, Pakterminal, Estonia's largest oil transit company, has ordered its own survey from the Dutch firm Arcadis.
Arcadis claims that for reasons of environmental safety, the optimal spot for the new oil terminal is to the north of oil terminals, because the grain terminal should not be located close to an oil terminal.
Sakkov said the oil firms' interest in the deep-water wharf is understandable because a lot of money is at stake.
"If we built the new wharf as an extension of the grain wharf, Pakterminal would have to invest more than others into pipelines. It is quite clear they want to save money," he said. "But we could find all kinds of similar arguments also in favor of the other option."
Building of the new wharf will cost up to $18 million.
The Pakterminal transit firm is going to ask for permission to build its own oil wharf in the port.
Pakterminal board chairman Raivo Vare said that the grain terminal option would mean an investment of $4.8 to $5.2 million into pipelines for Pakterminal.
"This is nearly half the money we would need to build a new oil terminal. We think it would be more reasonable to invest into the building of an entirely new wharf," he said.
Vare said most of the design work for the new wharf has already been done, with the first sketch completed in spring 2000, and according to Pakterminal's calculations the cost of the wharf would be 168 million kroons.
"Unfortunately, the Port of Tallinn has consistently ignored that project until the most recent times. So far, they have declared that it is not possible to build the oil terminal there for navigational reasons, but now it suddenly turns out that it is possible after all," he said.
In case the Port of Tallinn sticks to its option of extending the grain terminal and gives no financial compensation to Pakterminal for building additional pipeline, it would at least give Pakterminal a chance to build its own wharf, Vare said.
Vare added, that the July 31 decision by the Port of Tallinn supervisory board does not mean the die is already cast in favor of the grain wharf extension, and Pakterminal hopes to sit down to talks with the Port of Tallinn soon over the building of the wharf.
Sakkov said the new wharf with water 18-meters deep beside it could serve tankers with displacement up to 125,000 tons, the biggest that can get through the Danish Straits.
At the moment, the oil transit capacity of Muuga Port is 25 million kroons yearly, and the Port of Tallinn has assessed that it will be exhausted in the next few years. The forecast for freight flows by 2010 is 40 million tons of oil.