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Port Owners, Shippers Criticize Estonia’s Waterway Toll Plan

Business leaders criticised plans by the Estonian government to increase waterway tolls by as much as six times next year to cover investment costs.

Draft laws highlight “extreme instability in the business environment” and an “atmosphere of unpredictability,” Fyodor Berman, the main owner of the largest Baltic shipbuilder BLRT Grupp AS, and Arnout Lugtmeijer, Chief Executive Officer of equipment distributor Vopak E.O.S., said in an e-mailed letter today. They urged parliament to reject the plan.

The measures, still to be adopted by parliament, aim to combine present fees into a single toll for using Estonia’s waterway network. That fee may increase costs for a single port visit by two to six times, according to a letter accompanying the draft bill on the parliament’s website. The changes would help cover the cost of investing in safety, bringing the network in line with those in Finland and Sweden.

AS Tallink Grupp, the largest Baltic ferry company, would see its tax burden “significantly” increased and pay higher waterway tolls than in Sweden if the changes are enforced, deputy CEO Andres Hunt said in a letter on Oct. 11, posted on parliament’s website.

Total fees for marine cargo shipping would rise by 14 to 60 percent which would “negatively” affect competitiveness versus the other ports on the Baltic Sea, the Association of Estonian Ports said in a letter to Economy Minister Juhan Parts on Sept. 21.

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