Let’s start with the foundation of ELEA.
At the beginning of the 90’s, the young and re-independent Estonia had no knowledge and experience of freight forwarding, and nobody knew what freight forwarding was.
Jüri Suursoo, one of the founders of the association, the head of Tallinna Autoveod AS at the time, recalls – “we were all just “greenhorns” then, in the sense of beginners, there were hardly any experts in international trade, including international transport management, in Estonia, so it was important to get such knowledge from developed market economies, especially Finland and Sweden.”.
At the beginning of the 90’s, there was no specialized legislation, and it was necessary to rely on the Civil Code of the USSR, which did not meet the requirements of the new business model. We had to start building the foundations for the logistics sector ourselves.
Jüri Suursoo reminisces – there was a need to create some kind of common law basis for operators in this field, by drawing up contractual clauses based on freedom of contract and drawing on Nordic practice.
It was not only the businessmen who were the novice “greenhorns” in the early 90s, but also our politicians.
Jüri Suursoo reminisces – it was equally important to explain to government authorities the bottlenecks in international trade and how to improve these. The need arose to set up an organization through which to communicate with government institutions and make proposals..
Substantive changes were also needed in organizing international transport and developing networks.
Meelis Arumeel, one of the leading figures in the creation process, a long-standing manager of Schenker AS recalls – in order to have partners from Europe, a company had to have liability insurance, but we had no such thing. It was necessary to start creating common conditions and rules to build on in order to create the preconditions for the development of freight forwarding insurance. It was necessary to set up an association to coordinate the process and act as a link between companies.
On 6 December, at 19:00, the RAS Logistics House, Tartu mnt. 13, forty-one companies involved in international transport and freight forwarding came together to establish the Estonian Freight Forwarders Association (EEA). The foundation of the EAA was motivated by the need to create common rules of the game for freight forwarders operating in Estonia in order to avoid unfair competition and another important reason was the need to establish cooperation with the international freight forwarding organizations FIATA and NAFF.
After the founding meeting on 6 December 1994, the EEA Board sends an application to the Government of the Republic of Estonia to register the non-profit organization. On 13 February 1995, an directive from the Ministry of Social Affairs arrives, informing that the EEA statutes have been registered and the non-profit organization has been registered in the Register of Enterprises. This is the formal start for the regulation of the logistics sector and the approval of the EEA General Conditions. Preparations for joining FIATA are launched.
The creation of the EEA in December 1994 attracted a widespread response from Nordic freight forwarders’ associations, who were ready to support Estonians with both advice and resources. The Finnish Freight Forwarders’ Association was ready to provide free training assistance to EEA members in the fields of transport and forwarding, transport and forwarding of dangerous goods and the publication of training literature and information material on freight forwarding. Assistance was also offered to purchase office equipment and furniture.
In ’94, EEA decided to accede to the Nordic Association of Freight Forwarders’ Convention on General Conditions for Freight Forwarding (NSAB 85) and to base its future activities exclusively on this Convention. The general conditions were presented to the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which approved them and expressed support to EEA activities. Work began on adapting the NSAB 85 convention to the Estonian context, primarily concerning case law and the settlement of claims.
In the early years of the EEA, the association’s activities were primarily concerned with reaching agreements with the tax and customs authorities. In ’94, it was agreed with the current Customs Department that legislation on freight forwarding would be coordinated with the EEA. At the same time, meetings were held with representatives of ports and railways and the Estonian Minister of Roads and Communications to present the background and objectives of the association.
On 1 July 1995, the General Conditions of the Estonian Freight Forwarders’ Association came into force, which corresponded to the General Conditions of the Nordic Freight Forwarders’ Association NSAB 85 in force since 1 April 1985. Something that is so obvious today was started, as a common code of conduct was agreed upon. The EEA board fixed the opinion of its members that there is no need to license freight forwarding activities, the market will sort things out itself.
On October 4, 1995, EEA was accepted as a member of FIATA. The association obtained the right to issue FIATA multimodal transport documents and forms (FBL, FCR, FFI) to its members. The EEA, in cooperation with FIATA, started to develop a training program for freight forwarders, with Estonians facing the possibility of obtaining the FIATA Diploma remotely.
Jüri Suursoo recalls – by joining FIATA, we gained access to FIATA training materials and also brought the training to Estonia. Membership of FIATA enabled us to better establish contacts and find partners around the world and to expand our network.
In 1996, the decision was made to start collecting activity and salary statistics of EEA members.
In 1995, the total turnover of EEA members was EEK 821 million (of which approximately 50% was from freight forwarding services), the member companies employed a total of approximately 1600 people. The EEA had 49 members.
The 1997 General Assembly decided to admit companies whose activities were not directly related to freight forwarding as members of the EEA and to amend the EEA Statutes accordingly.
Tallinn Airport and a number of customs brokers, who lacked a professional organization but needed the association’s support in training and international networking, had shown interest in joining the association.
In 1999, an agreement was signed with EMI&EWT, who started to run training courses for freight forwarders in accordance with the FIATA training program. The first International Freight Forwarder Essential Course lasted six months and was attended by 33 students from 18 companies.
Preparations started for the compilation and publication of the first Forwarder’s Handbook.
In 1999 Kersti Kraas took up the post of EEA Secretary General, leading the association for 8 years, and was an active member of the FIATA Standards Accreditation Committee and EEA representative in several workgroups.
The EEA Board decided to start requiring member companies to provide copies of their liability insurance policies on a regular basis.
In 1999, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry set up a professional council for transport, logistics and post, where the EEA was represented by Alar Lõhmus. The main activity of the council was the creation of professional standards in the field of transport and logistics. This move was necessary because different schools had different curricula and the level of teaching needed to be made more uniform.
As early as 1998, preparatory work began on updating the EEA General Conditions, based on the revised NSAB 2000 General Conditions, which had already been introduced in the Nordic countries. In 2000, the changes were agreed with the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and from 1 January 2001 the new EEA General Terms and Conditions 2000 came into effect, which remained in force for a long time and were used by EEA members and non-members alike.
In the summer of 2000, the first EEA Summer Days were held in Jäneda where nearly 200 employees from 20 companies participated. The tradition was established, and summer days were organized in many years, with an impressive number of participants. Unfortunately, the economic downturn was followed by a decline in demand for recreation, and summer days faded away.
At the beginning of the new century, the association paid a lot of attention to educating the younger generation of logisticians, and the EEA organized competitions to find a representative for the global FIATA Young Forwarder competition.
In 2001, the EEA started working with insurance companies to develop an insurance product that would comply with the EEA General Conditions 2000, so that insurance premiums for companies could be reduced and insurance conditions would be unambiguous and equal. Cooperation was established with various insurance companies and the Federation of Insurance Companies.
January 2001 saw the publication of the long-awaited Freight Forwarder’s Handbook, a translation of the handbook published by the Finnish Freight Forwarders’ Association (Suomen Huolintaliikkeiden Liitto) in 1997. Only the specific sections related to Finland were left out, but examples of Finnish practice were included. EEA information and a chapter on Estonian foreign trade regulations were added.
In 2002, the association fought for the amendment of the Traffic Insurance Act to exclude semi-trailers from the list of vehicles requiring compulsory insurance.
The Estonian government took the first steps towards digitalization of customs information by introducing the Asycuda customs warehouse module, but this increased bureaucracy and the burden on businesses to enter data. The EEA negotiated with customs representatives on reducing bureaucracy.
In 2002, the VAT Act and the resulting Regulation 119 of the Minister of Finance were implemented, which had a significant impact on the activities and competitiveness of freight forwarding companies in the international freight forwarding market. A working group was set up within the EEA, which presented its proposals for changes and met several times with representatives of the Ministry of Finance. As a result of this effort, the regulation was amended and freight forwarding was added to the list of services exports and international freight forwarding services were sold VAT-exempt.
In 2003, the main issue was the obligation under the Food Act to consider transport companies as handling companies and to require that they are recognized. Another important topic was the import of excise-free fuel into Estonia in standardized fuel tanks of motor vehicles, and the suggestions made by the association were taken into account.
Preparations for joining the European Union were in full speed, and there were many changes in the field.
In 2004, for the first time there was talk of introducing long truck trains (25.25 m) in Estonia. The Logistics Association was more active on the issue, but there was no consensus within the EEA membership and the association remained neutral, but was willing to participate in workgroups.
On 1 May 2004, Estonia became a member of the European Union. Therefore, the legislation was amended, supplemented and brought in line with EU legislation. One of the changes in this area was the obligation to set up checkpoints at border crossing points to control consignments of animal products, which slowed down border crossings. Members of the Board met with representatives of the Veterinary Office.
In 2005, the EEA Board met with the then Director General of CLECAT, Marco Sorgett, and the EEA’s joining the organization was discussed. CLECAT’s main area of activity was drafting specialized legislation and providing input to the EU Transport Committee. The EEA Board decided to join the organization and contribute to its work.
In 2005, work continued to bring the Customs Act into line with EU legislation, and the EEA was the Tax and cooperation partner. Preparations were made on the possibilities related to the status of authorized entrepreneur and on the issues related to the import declaration by the Customs Department.
In 2006, the EEA organized training courses and seminars for its members and other companies in the sector, addressing the issues on the agenda and proposing solutions (new VAT law, insurance, etc.). An EEA delegation took part in the Freight Forwarders’ Days in Odessa, Ukraine.
In 2006, the EEA launched a new competition to receive FIATA Diploma level training, requiring a modular curriculum and meeting the FIATA minimum standards. TTK University of Applied Sciences was selected by the EEA Board as the new provider of training and preparations were started for the accreditation of the curriculum by FIATA.
In 2007, the FIATA Diploma curriculum developed by TTK University of Applied Sciences was approved by the FIATA Committee and pilot courses were started in Tallinn. In the autumn of the same year, the school successfully passed the FIATA curriculum, and graduates of the modular curriculum had again the opportunity to obtain the FIATA Diploma.
At the end of 2006, the EEA started negotiations with professional organizations in the field of logistics, with the aim of creating one strong specialized organization. At the EEA General Assembly in March 2007, EEA members decided not to join the Estonian Logistics Association, but to continue cooperation and joint projects.
In 2006, under the leadership of Jüri Suursoo, the development of rules for road freight transport continued, a process that had already started in the early years of the new century. In 2007, approval was obtained from ERAA, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Automotive Enterprises and the General Assembly approved the ELEA General Terms and Conditions for Road Transport.
Discussions continued in 2007 on the broader transformation of the EEA, pointing out and eliminating the bottlenecks that had been the main focus of the Association’s activities in its early years. The board was looking for ways to involve other parties in the industry, such as storage service providers, port operators, etc.
In September 2007, Katrin Raie took up the post of EEA Secretary General. Her first major challenges were defending the FIATA curriculum in Dubai with TTK University of Applied Sciences and organizing training in Tallinn for lecturers. The new and energetic Secretary General did a great job on both.
In autumn 2007, the EEA organized training courses for teachers and lecturers in the field of logistics. Thomas Sim from Singapore, Chairman of the FIATA Training Committee, came to train Estonian teachers. The training was attended by 14 lecturers from different Estonian higher education institutions and vocational schools that teach logistics.
At the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, the EEA Secretary General visited the members of the association and gathered information about their opinions regarding the future. Most companies acknowledged that change is needed and that this is the direction in which we need to move. However, there was a tendency to be cautious and to develop gradually, too radical changes were not desired.
EEA participated in the customs workgroup that was involved in the development of e-customs in the European Union (MASP project), a very extensive and long-term project. Postal and courier companies appealed to the EEA to lift restrictions on parking and access to city centers when transporting goods was concerned. The association approached the Union of Local Authorities with a substantive proposal and solutions were found.
In 2007, EEA members raised the issue of the circulation of packaging (pallets). The association set up a workgroup and visited various companies involved in waste recycling, such as the MTÜ Pakendiringlus, Xanor, etc. The sector was unregulated and confusion caused high losses for businesses. However, general rules were not yet finalized.
The 2008 General Assembly approved the amendments to the Constitution and added logistics and logistic services in addition to freight forwarding as an activity of the members. The name of the organization also changed – Estonian Logistics and Freight Forwarding Association – ELEA. The goal was to involve as many people as possible from different sectors into the activities of the association.
In autumn 2008, a new cycle of FIATA trainings started in TTK University of Applied Sciences, the number of participants had increased compared to the previous years. ELEA applied to EAS for a training grant for its members and received a positive decision, the grant was 50% of the total amount. FIATA trainings started again. In autumn 2009, the graduates were presented with their certificates by Markus Schöni, FIATA Training Division Manager.
At the end of 2008, the subject of joining the NSAB was discussed again, with the accession of all Baltic countries to the Nordic General Conditions still under discussion. However, the Nordic Association was not joined, but an exchange of information and the use of NSAB’s general terms and conditions were agreed upon. The ELEA started negotiations in the Baltic countries to introduce common general conditions.
For the first time, a guest speaker, economist Hardo Palula, was invited to the 2009 General Assembly, who gave a presentation on “The possible impact of the fracturing of Himerica on Estonian transport”. The guest speaker was very warmly welcomed and this started the tradition of inviting a guest speaker to the general assembly, which over the years has included ministers, sector specialists, etc.
Already in 2008, a workgroup was formed to prepare the general conditions for storage operators. The workgroup was led by Jaan Lepp and Mart Melles. The workgroup decided to base its work on the Rotterdam-Amsterdam conditions, in the course of its work it met with banks, insurance companies, etc.
As of 1 February 2011, the Estonian Logistics and Freight Forwarding Association’s (ELEA) General Terms and Conditions of Storage took effect, which regulate the legal relations between storage operators and their customers in the context of the storage of goods in the course of economic activities and protect customers to the extent provided for in the General Terms and Conditions.
In 2009, the Customs Department, in cooperation with the ELEA, started developing local implementing decisions for the AEO status. The idea of the AEO was to give verified and approved companies access to the simplified customs procedures and in the future it was even envisaged to give AEOs the right of customs clearance and the possibility of a green corridor at the border.
In 2010, Katre Kasepõld, the current Secretary General, started her term.
The issue of cartel agreements became topical and the first large fines were paid in Europe. As a result, foreign-owned companies became more cautious and some were forced to close down their activities in the specialized organization.
In 2010, ELEA convened a workgroup to draft a Code of Conduct for the recycling of packaging (pallets), the workgroup was led by Karli Lambot. The topic was launched already in 2007 and the workgroup included representatives of different parties – retailers, freight forwarders and pallet manufacturers. The operational rules for the ELEA’s transport packaging recycling scheme, based on the Finnish analogue, came into effect on 1 May 2012.
The 2012 General Assembly established a new procedure for calculating membership fees, which were calculated on the basis of the previous financial year’s sales turnover and divided into 5 groups.
ELEA joined the Single Window initiative, started by ILT and continued today by PROLOG.
The association organized various information days and port visits to its members (Muuga Harbour, Port of Sillamäe, etc.).
In 2012, ELEA started to work more closely with the Chamber of Vocational Education and Training (Kutsekoda) and started developing professional standards in the field. The new professional standards also provided input for the development of new curricula in cooperation with INNOVE. Collaboration on professional standards and curricula remains a priority for the association to this day.
In 2013, ELEA was actively involved in the development of the Transport Development Plan, and its cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications continues today. The introduction of toll charges in Estonia was another important issue.
In 2014, representatives of Greencarrier Freight Service Estonia and Silsteve participated as ELEA scholarship holders in APEC training courses in Antwerp.
In 2014, ELEA started a cooperation with the Institute of Futures Studies of TalTech, under the supervision of Erik Terg, the future scenarios of the Estonian transport and logistics sector until 2030 were developed. In December, ELEA’s 20th anniversary was celebrated at the TV Tower and 4 scenarios (The Bright Blue HUB, The Cautious Man Scenario, The Nordic Silk Road and Life in a Logistical Dead End) were discussed under the moderation of Karli Lambot by top professionals in the field – Siim Kallas, Raivo Vare, Tiit Vähi, Erik Laidvee and Rein Loik.
In 2016, the EEA General Terms and Conditions (GTC) underwent an overhaul and were aligned with the NSAB 2015 Terms and Conditions and renamed ELEA General Terms and Conditions 2015.
In 2016, the long-awaited new and voluminous electronic Freight Forwarder’s Handbook was published by Jüri Suursoo.
In 2017, the ELEA General Assembly adopted the Logistics Service Code of Good Practice, which became the Association’s Code of Ethics. In the same year, the ELEA organized discussion forums and made proposals to the Ministry of Finance on the issue of fuel excise tax, with the aim of lowering the excise rate or partially reimbursing it to transport companies. The issue is still relevant today. In 2018, the association continued to work with the MTA and the AEL on the issue of the payment of undeclared wages, and as a result of this work, an agreement was reached with the trade unions and the minimum wage for drivers was set at €1,100. As a result of the MTA’s inspections, the payment of undeclared wages in the transport sector decreased significantly. ELEA again raised the issue of allowing longer vehicles on Estonian roads.
In the current year, 2020, ELEA’s priorities have not changed significantly. The aim of the organization remains to represent and protect the common professional interests of its members, to prevent unfair competition and to create the most favorable business environment for the development of the sector.
It is important to continue to work with different educational institutions to train specialists in the field and to provide curricula with both professional and international input.
The original idea behind the creation of the association, and the most important undertaking of all – to keep together and continuously update the package of base contracts necessary for the work of the sector – is relevant today and will remain so in the future.
When choosing a suit, finding the right tie can be the deciding factor – why couldn’t ELEA be that tie of choice.