TALLINN - The Estonian Port of Tallinn, the Baltic Sea's biggest cargo and passenger operator, said its net profit fell by one fifth in 2007 as trade with Russia slumped amid a bitter political row.
The state-owned group said that its profit fell by 21% from the 2006 figure, dropping to EEK 336 mln (EUR 21.5 mln, USD 32.5 mln).
"Since last May, Russian companies that used Estonian ports have tried to decrease transit via Estonia," Port of Tallinn spokesman Sven Ratassepp told Agence France-Presse.
The fall-off was most pronounced in August and September, when the group's profits slid by 40% compared with the same months in 2006, Ratassepp explained.
"The total cut in Port of Tallinn's net profit in 2007 was 21%, and the trend is not changing. Russian companies still use Estonian ports much less than they did before May 2007," he said.
Last year relations between Estonia and Russia plunged to their lowest point since 1991, when the Baltic state regained independence from the collapsing Soviet Union after five decades of rule from Moscow.
The spark was Estonia's decision at the end of April to move a Red Army war memorial from the centre of Tallinn to a military cemetery.
Although Moscow denied it slapped sanctions on Estonia, trade between the two neighbours fell sharply after the monument was moved, with the transit sector the hardest hit.
Port of Tallinn is made up of five constituent harbours in the Estonian capital and elsewhere in the country.
Estonia and neighbouring ex-Soviet Lithuania and Latvia were significant conduits for Soviet trade with the West. The three countries, which all joined the European Union in 2004, have remained major outlets for Russia since independence.
Russia, however, has warned it may stop shipping exports through the Baltic states over coming years as it upgrades northwestern ports such as its Barents Sea hub in Murmansk.