NATO's Tallinn-Afghanistan Cargo Transit Increasing
Last year, the transit flow of non-combat cargo en route to Afghanistan from Tallinn increased to 250,000 tons, up from 43,000 tons in 2010 and 1,500 tons in 2009.
Since 2009, when NATO began to use Baltic ports as one of its alternative routes for transport to Afghanistan, due to heightening tensions with Pakistan, the most important port city has been Riga, reported Postimees.
Known as the Northern Distribution Network, the 5,000-kilometer route begins from Baltic ports and heads through Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and finally to Afghanistan.
With NATO troops preparing to withdraw in 2014, the use of the Northern Distribution Network, including Tallinn's port, has increased dramatically, despite the fact that the northern route is reportedly twice as expensive as using Pakistan highways.
In 2010, around 40 percent of non-combat cargo was transported through the northern route, while, just a year earlier, 90 percent of the cargo went through Pakistan.
The extent of the cargo that is destined for Afghanistan could be even larger than is publicly known because the final destination of railway cargo is often marked as other Central Asian countries, although in reality it ends up in Afghanistan.
Estonian Railways will not publish the details of its private sector clients, but trains heading to Afghanistan allegedly only carry non-combat cargo, such as building materials and food.