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Transport firms in Narva looking at options once road border closed from Russian side

Estonian-Russian border on November 18, 2023.
Estonian-Russian border on November 18, 2023. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin/ERR

Russia is to close the Ivangorod border crossing, on the opposite side of the Narva River from the Estonian border town of Narva, from February 1.

As a result, local haulers in the area will have to look for new means and solutions to engage in cross-border transit, a spokesperson for one of these firms told ERR.

In any case, the newer solutions will be costlier and more time-consuming.

Altogether around 20 transport companies in Narva are engaged in transit to Russia, with foodstuffs, flowers, soft drinks, alcohol and medicines among the most commonly exported goods, primarily to St. Petersburg and environs.

The closure of the Narva-Ivangorod border crossing and the ensuing interruption of car traffic means access to Russia will be viable in the future across the checkpoints in southeastern Estonia, at Luhamaa and Koidula, nearly 300 kilometers to the south.

This will make the round trip to St. Petersburg for Narva-based firms considerably lengthier, more time consuming and more expensive.

Igor Rabtsevitš, board member of Garant Trans, a Narva-based hauler, told ERR that: "The journey home will be longer, by almost 600 kilometers."

"We are working in a competitive market situation, and we have a lot of competition with carriers from Latvia and Lithuania, but nothing for them is to change. However, for us, everything will change, and radically," Rabtsevitš went on.

Truck drivers will also have a harder time. For example, if driving from St. Petersburg, once the border is closed this may involve, if breaking up the journey, leaving the vehicle at Jaanilinn (known in Russia as Ivangorod) and crossing the border into Narva on foot.

After that, the driver would then have to cross back over the border on foot the next day to pick up the vehicle, and driving south (on Russian roads) to the border crossings in southeastern Estonia, Rabtsevitš said.

None of the 43 truck drivers working for Garant Trans are to be laid off, however, though routes to Russia will not be abandoned completely, the company says, most of trucks will be redirected to transport inside Europe.

Rabtsevitš said that Garant Trans' routine in normal times involved transporting goods of European origin to warehouses in Narva, ahead of their being exported to Russia by "those transport firms that do not travel to European countries, for various reason."

The company is also weighing up running transport across Finnish border checkpoints, at such a time when Finland reopens its borders with Russia.

Since a truck offers more directional options than does train transit, this is more viable, while border "windows" opening up remain a focus for Garant Trans, "plus we can even transport goods through Belarus to Russia in transit," Rabtsevitš said.

Rabtsevitš says he forecasts longer than usual waiting times for trucks at border crossings in southeast Estonia for as long as Finland's eastern border remains closed.

Estonian-Russian border on November 18, 2023. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin/ERR

The Narva-Jaanilinn/Ivangorod border crossing will be closed to vehicles in both directions from February 1 until the end of 2025 due to Russia's planned reconstruction work. 

Finland has fully closed its eastern border and renewing the decision on a rolling basis, with the latest month-long extension put in place on January 11.

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Editor: Jüri Nikolajev, Andrew Whyte

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