Sanctions banning Russian and Belarusian haulers from entering the EU have not yet reduced the flow of goods coming across Estonia's eastern border.
The rules came into effect on Saturday but 147 trucks passed through the Narva border point on Sunday, the highest number for several weeks, ETV's evening news program "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday.
"The queue was up to 70 hours long on the Russian side. Currently, the queue is over 30 hours. The fact that Belarus and Russian trucks are now missing does not reduce this border crossing load. Freight transport has increased," said Ants Kutti, head of the Tax and Customs Board's external border.
Russian haulers have until the end of the week to leave Estonia.
Trucks from other countries can now be seen at the border crossing.
"We have noticed that Moldovan trucks, for example, have [started to] come in. Does this now mean that they are, so to speak, replacing this niche market, it is too early to say," said Kutti.
Estonian haulage companies are not affected by the sanctions but are concerned about Russia's likely countermoves. There are 20 companies in Narva that transport goods across the border every day.
Chairman of the Management Board of AS Narva Auto Nikolai Burdakov said retaliatory actions will be a blow for the company and the sector.
"If Russia imposes retaliatory sanctions, we will have at least 50 people left unemployed. It is impossible to secure such a large amount of Estonian transport to Russia. Not only for us but also other companies, of which are about 500 in Estonia," he said.
Burdakov does not believe third-country carriers will take over the flow of goods between the European Union and Russia because the number of vehicles involved in transport is too large to replace.
While the sanction was introduced across the 27 member states along with the EU's fifth package last week, "unfortunately" exemptions still exist, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) said in a statement on Saturday.
Member states can grant exceptions for the purchase, transport of import of natural gas and petroleum, titanium, aluminum, copper, nickel, palladium and iron ore "where appropriate".
Additionally, it will be possible to create exceptions to purchase, import or transport pharmaceuticals, medicine, agriculture and foodstuffs, including wheat, and for humanitarian purposes.
Record queues at Baltic states' borders
Record queues also formed on Latvia, Lithuania and Poland's borders over the weekend.
Public broadcaster LRT reported on Saturday night that over 250 Russian and Belarusian trucks were refused entry into Lithuania. Meanwhile, unprecedented queues of trucks formed on the Lithuanian side of the border with Belarus.
The Customs Department said the queues at the border with Belarus have never been so long before.
There are around 670 trucks lined up at the Raigardas checkpoint, a similar number waiting at the Medininkai checkpoint, over 700 at Šalcininkai, and another 400 at Lavoriškes.
In Latvia, approximately 720 trucks are waiting in line at Latvia's Terehova border checkpoint. Many of them have Russian license plates.
The drivers told Latvian Radio that the line had been created due to the sanctions imposed on Russia and that the situation was even worse elsewhere, with a four or even five-day wait to cross the Belarusian-Polish border.
"I am waiting in line for the third day. There were 760 cars in line before me, and in fact, nothing really happens here during those three days," said an unnamed driver of a truck registered in Latvia traveling to Russia.
Editor: Helen Wright