State looking for solutions on hazardous fertilizer stranded at Muuga port

Muuga Harbor, operated by the Port of Tallinn.
Muuga Harbor, operated by the Port of Tallinn. Source: ERR

The state is preparing an exemption which will allow the sale of a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer still in port at Muuga, east of Tallinn, with the express purpose of having it removed from Estonian territory.

The fertilizer, 12,000 tonnes of it, has caused consternation for local residents and authorities in regard to its safety, but cannot easily be sold on, due to being under embargo following sanctions put in place after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lauri Hussar says that both the municipality and local residents in Viimsi, itself a largely affluent area, have repeatedly appealed to the state for clarity on the situation, but to no avail so far.

Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) Viimsi Municipality Chair, said: "As of today we are also talking in respect of the fact that for two months now, local people have been feeling anxiety because of the situation. Viimsi municipality is also concerned, but ultimately I still hope that this situation will be resolved quickly."

Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) technical department chief Ingrid Teinemaa said: "The EU sanction rules, meaning the regulation which has been established on sanctions, also provides for certain exemptions which can be utilized when it comes to dangerous substances or dangerous situations; there is a present, dangerous situation regarding the lives of the public, as well as the environment."

The exemption in fact was written into the EU sanctions regulation at Estonia's behest.

Sandra Särav, vice chancellor for entrepreneurship at the Ministry of Economy, said: "At present, we are at a stage where the TTJA is writing an injunction to DBT, in order for them to apply for an exception from the anti-money laundering bureau the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), on which basis they can handle, sell or deliver the fertilizer, away from Estonia."

This injunction will be issued in the course of the week; the FIU says it wants to ensure that in the event of the fertilizer leaving port and leaving Estonian territory, its sanctioned owners will not benefit financially and any income received will be frozen.

Laura Aus, financial sanctions expert at the FIU, said: "When issuing such exemptions the FIU first of all looks at when issuing such exemptions is that they are in accordance with the regulation. Funds must not be made available to the subject of sanctions," said

Teinemaa meanwhile said that the fertilizer, a much larger quantity than that involved in the Port of Beirut explosion in August 2020 , does not present any danger being held in port at Muuga.

She said: "There is no danger today, and we don't see one materializing in the near future either, under such storage conditions. A solution is in the works, whereby the entrepreneur can sell his goods themselves, while we are currently making these decisions on an ongoing basis."

A solution is expected to be finalized within the next few months, ERR reports.

A total of 80,000 tonnes of sanctioned Russian fertilizer has been stranded at Muuga, 209km km east of Tallinn, for around two months.

12,000 tonnes of the total is ammonium nitrate, which is also used as a component in explosives.

The August 4 2020 Beirut explosion was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, also under sanction at the time, following a chain of events including an initial explosion at an adjacent warehouse containing fireworks.

Muuga harbor falls under the part-state-owned Port of Tallinn authority.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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