Dangerous fertilizer cargo stuck at Muuga harbor due to Russian sanctions

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Muuga Harbor, east of Tallinn and one of two locations where STS transfers may still go ahead.
Muuga Harbor, east of Tallinn and one of two locations where STS transfers may still go ahead. Source: AS Tallinna Sadam

80,000 tonnes of fertilizer cargo is stranded in the Port of Muuga as a result of anti-Russian sanctions, including 12,000 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate, which becomes more hazardous as time passes.

Both the owner of the Muuga terminal, AS DBT, and the owner of the fertilizer, the Russian chemical behemoth Acron, are subject to sanctions; specifically, the fertilizer in Muuga is owned by Acron's Swiss subsidiary, according to daily Postimees.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Finance and the responsible authorities convened for a crisis management meeting to discuss the problem of fertilizer stuck in Muuga, but there is still no solution in sight.

Because DBT and Acron, as well as their owners, are sanctioned, they are unable to use their assets in Estonia or elsewhere in Europe, and there is no reason to believe that anybody would review the sanctions imposed on Russia over a few tens of thousands of tons of fertilizer stranded in Estonia.

According to the the state Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), the cargo does not pose a risk at this time, but it should be monitored.

"It is essential that ammonium nitrate is protected from external influences, such as oils, fuels, etc., which can have an effect on it. Additionally, it is important to make sure that the temperature within the pile does not reach dangerous levels. These are today's standard procedures in Estonia," said Ingrid Teinemaa, head of the TTJA's technical department.

"To keep things in check, after the initial six-month period, detonation tests are performed every three months, and if a product fails the test, it is labeled as hazardous waste," said Urmas Grüning, chief inspector of safety supervision at the Northern Rescue Centre (Põhja päästekeskus).

"If this occurs, the company will face a major problem involving the disposal of large amounts of hazardous waste," Teinemaa said.

However, we expect the problematic waste to be removed by the fall, which requires a relaxation of sanctions so that the fertilizer can be sold and shipped away. "It is always possible to find exceptions, and based on the exceptions, we could sell these fertilizers to buyers," Teinemaa said.

Marie Allikmaa, foreign economics director at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that requesting a derogation from Brussels is one option. "The second solution would be to examine how these derogations may be introduced in accordance with national legislation."

Allikmaa is optimistic that a solution will be found by fall.

This article was updated to include further comments.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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