The number of trucks passing through the Narva border crossing point has grown by more than 20 percent since the start of the war. Customs officers do not have the time to check all shipments as the terminal is crowded and short-staffed, with truck drivers' waiting times considerable.
If before the war in Ukraine, fewer than 1,500 trucks crossed the border every week, the figure has grown to near 2,000 now. Because the border between Belarus and Poland is closed, goods are increasingly moved through Estonia. Customs are busy, with lines stretching to 70 hours.
"For example, over half the trucks coming through Narva are carrying timber today because of export restrictions in Russia. Timber needs to be checked by the Agriculture and Food Board, while they have their own resource problems, and considering the reduced capacity of customs from the start of the year, our work has become a lot more intensive," said Ants Kutti, head of the external border department of the Tax and Customs Board.
Customs workload is also up due to exports from Estonia.
"Normally, a country's customs officials focus on checking incoming goods, while sanctions force us to check more than 50 percent of outbound trucks. All of it together has placed customs under a lot of pressure, and I think we have done brilliantly under the circumstances. There is a lot of work to do and we are taking it one day at a time," Kutti said.
Customs agents need to work overtime to check increased goods flow. Hiring additional workforce requires time as it takes a minimum of four months to train a customs employee.
Editor: Marcus Turovski