The system, called Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, will allow completion of border control documents in electronic form from January 2002. In March it will become possible to complete cargo declarations in the same way.
"EDI is the first serious project at state level aimed at improving the competitiveness of Estonian transport companies," said Jurgenson.
Today a truck driver spends at least an hour crossing an Estonian border and in the worst cases the procedures can take a whole working day. The new project, the first of its kind in the Baltic states, was initiated by the Transport and Communications Ministry together with the Finance Ministry and Ministry of Agriculture.
Not only will it help domestic transit companies, said Jurgensen, it will also develop the Estonian transit corridor, making Estonia more competitive on the international market.
The system was developed by the Estonian IT company Helmes in cooperation with Deloitte and Touche. It is designed to be easy to adapt to accord with EU regulations.
Priit Poder, director of the state-owned company EDI Vektor Ltd., said the main principles of customs control will not change. "It's all about trust," he said. "Customs officials will still carry out risk analyses and choose which cargo to check".
Under the new system when a truck or container reaches a port, customs procedures could have already been completed.
But some, like Priit Herodes, director of logistics at EM Trans logistics company, have yet to be convinced. "It's early to expect a miracle," he said. "There are two basic issues to be solved: ensuring the security of information shared between state institutions and private companies, and a mismatch in the technological levels of these two sides."
Systems such as EDI already operate in the largest European ports such as Rotterdam.