Growing Number of NATO Containers Moving via Estonia's Muuga Port
Until recently the port of Riga played the key role in the transit of NATO shipments to Afghanistan, but now an increasing number of containers are moving through the port of Muuga situated next to the Estonian capital Tallinn, Postimees said. The paper said that earlier the clear preference of the United States Transportation Command (US Transcom) for a starting point of the route of shipments in the north via the Baltic countries and Russia to Afghanistan was Latvia. Starting from 2009 until May this year, 36 185 containers with NATO transit goods have been shipped via Riga, 14 642 via Muuga and 3 985 via Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Looking at data for 2012 alone, the numbers are much more even, with Riga having handled 6 422 containers, Muuga 4 026, and Lithuania 1 635, Postimees said.
The commander of Transcom, Gen. William M. Fraser III, told Postimees during his visit to Tallinn at the end of last month that the individual shares of the ports of the three Baltic countries in Afghanistan transit had evened out and each country was getting one-third of the total shipments now. The general referred to the closure of its borders for NATO shipments by Pakistan, saying that adjustments had to be made when Pakistan made the move. "When that happened, changes had to be made in the arrangements of support. We expanded aerial shipments, combined shipments and shipments through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), because there were volumes available there," he said according to remarks published in Estonian.
In the first week of July news broke that Pakistan has decided to reopen its transit route, which has remained closed since November 2011.
Gen. Fraser said in his remarks in Tallinn that under whatever circumstances the port of Tallinn is one of the locations through which the return of troops and equipment from Afghanistan to the United States will take place. The general said Transcom has carried out tests of such shipments and the third test shipment was en route at the time. "These two-way transit shipments have been going well," he said.
According to the general, mainly food, energy drinks, water and other similar supplies, classed as Class I supplies, have been shipped via Tallinn. For armaments and other more sensitive supplies, as well as time-critical supplies, "other methods" are used, said Fraser.