Further changes to customs procedures in the Russian Federation are causing disruption to border crossings, including long queues and extended waiting times, which is affecting automotive shipments into the country.
According to Federal Law No.394-FZ, Russian customs has now been granted the authority to carry out transport control in full at border checkpoints that includes document checks related to controllable goods for sanitary quarantine, veterinary and phytosanitary quarantine (those designed to prevent the spread of plant-derived pests).
Following the blockade on Polish truck movements into Russia through Belarus in January because of a haulage license dispute, which hit automotive parts and finished vehicle shipments, as well as tariff increases in March, reports in CIS news source Sea News indicate that land border crossings are now being affected by a shortage of customs officers and the additional border certificate duties that have been given to those remaining staff. Logistics providers, including Russian Transport Lines, have since confirmed that there have been resulting disruption to automotive shipments. A spokesperson for the company told Automotive Logistics that it had been forced to make some changes to its shipments following the disruption but that so far the action had not had any affect on RTL’s clients.
However, according to a report in today’s Sea News the delays have now spread to disrupt schedules and cause cancellations at ports in the Far East of the country and at border crossings in the northwest of the country bordering Finland and Latvia.
Capacity at crossing points in the northwest has dropped and the number of trucks able to be processed is reported to have halved in some cases. At Torfyanovka on the border with Finland, which was previously able to handle up to 800 trucks per day, throughput said to have dropped to 400 trucks. And at Burachki on the Russian-Latvian border, the number of trucks is down from 450-500 to 300 per day.
According to Priority Freight’s Alexander Rogan, customs officers are struggling to deal with the new protocols and processes. Many have been sent on short-term deployments to the customs posts that now delineate the new Belarus, Kazakh and Russian Customs Union where they have completely new duties to perform.
Rogan said that the Russian customs authority has closed 35 posts and made 3,500 redundancies but at the same time has taken over the new sanitary, quarantine, and phytosanitary control functions from respective state agencies. Staff at those agencies have also been made redundant and industry sources have said that the only hope of a resolution to the shortage of expertise needed to deal with the situation is with the reemployment of recently-dismissed agency staff by the customs service.
There are reports that customs officers at checkpoints in the Big Port of St Petersburg are unable to explain how sanitary, quarantine and phytosanitary cargo should now be cleared. However, that speculation has been questioned by information from legal service provider DLA Piper. According to Wilhelmina Shavshina, legal director at the company, several employees at the Baltic Customs service have been specially engaged to perform these checks and, therefore, very few problems have arisen in the port.
Furthermore, the engagement of employees at Bryansk Customs, the administrative centre of Bryansk Oblast 379km southwest of Moscow, has also allowed cargo flow issues to be solved at that section of the border.
Shavshina also said that controlling services at the departments of Rosselhoznadzor and Rospotrebnadzor [the Federal Services for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance] are staying at the border checking the goods if customs officers suspect that the information provided on the goods is not accurate or if they are unsure of the authenticity of the documents.
“Accordingly, if any doubts are cast upon the cargo by the customs officers, they will request to have the cargo examined with the participation of these sanitary and veterinary services,” she said.