Sanctioned fertilizer stuck in Muuga Harbor cannot be used in Estonia

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

Estonian ministries and the agricultural sector are trying to find a solution to dispose of 80,000 tonnes of sanctioned Russian fertilizer stuck in Estonia's Muuga Harbor which, if not stored correctly, could become dangerous. The government said it cannot be used by Estonian farmers.

Due to sanctions placed on Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian fertilizer has been sanctioned and is now sitting in Tallinn's Muuga Harbor.

Of the 80,000 tonnes, 12,000 tonnes are ammonium nitrate, which can become dangerous if stored in one place for a long time and can cause explosions.

The Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce believes the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Rural Affairs should allow farmers to use it for its intended use. This would reduce the risk, it said.

Prices have risen significantly since the war as much of the fertilizer imported to Europe comes from Russia coupled with rising energy prices, the chamber pointed out.

"In a situation where ammonium nitrate is supplied to Estonia at very high prices from unrestricted countries, it is unreasonable to declare the fertilizer as hazardous waste and to incur costs related to its disposal, while in agriculture it is possible to turn a dangerous substance into a necessary commodity," the chamber wrote in an appeal to the ministries.

The organization said, in addition to Muuga Habor, ammonium nitrate is also stored at Sillamäe in Ida-Viru County. The amount is approximately 69,000 tonnes in total which essentially covers the amount used per year by Estonian agriculture.

However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said the EU's sanctions generally do not allow for the change of ownership of sanctioned goods or for countries to confiscate them.

The government is now working with companies to safely store the fertilizer and to find a legal solution for its future while taking sanction rules into account, said Laura Laaster, head of the ministry's public relations department.

She said a solution is being sought to move the stored fertilizer from the port.

"Solutions are in the works, but it will take time, because every possible solution must be coordinated with the Money Laundering Data Bureau, which is the institution that supervises the implementation of financial sanctions in Estonia," Laaster said.

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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

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