Trucks of nearly 20 Finnish hauliers ordered to be escorted to
destinations in Russia
Eastern Customs District receives explanation of Russian Customs
The Russian Customs has ordered trucks belonging to nearly a score of Finnish transport operators to be accompanied by an escort vehicle when they deliver goods to their destinations in Russia. A service charge of up to 2,000 US dollars per transport will be collected from the operating companies.
Russian Customs justifies the need for escort vehicles by their suspicions of foul play in paying duties. These suspicions concern shipments to Russian companies as well.
According to Finnish transport entrepreneurs and their union, the Finnish Transport and Logistics (SKAL), the Russians' injunction hampers and in some cases totally prevents the operations of 16 Finnish trucking companies in Russia.
In SKAL's view the ordered use of compulsory escorts is in direct violation of new Russian customs laws, and therefore illegal.
The compulsory use of escorts applies to most Finnish trucking companies operating across the Russian border.
SKAL has appealed to the Finnish Customs Administration and the Ministry of Transport and Communications to contact the Russian Customs and to have them overturn their ruling on the use of escort vehicles and the collection of subsequent fees.
Russian Customs in Vyborg have in turn asked for executive assistance from the Eastern Customs District in Finland to obtain further clarification from Finnish hauliers.
Tommi Kivilaakso, the head of the Eastern Customs District, agrees the measures taken by the Vyborg Customs are tough, but acknowledges that the Finnish Customs have no right to question their legitimacy.
In the Finnish Parliament, MP Jyri Häkämies (National Coalition Party), has produced a written enquiry as to what steps the government plans to take in order to resolve the situation and to overturn the Russian Customs' "illegal measures" against the Finnish haulage companies.
According to Häkämies, the Finnish transport operators have carried out their deliveries to Russia in the proper manner, and they have all the necessary documentation, such as customs clearance confirmations and notices of arrival, to prove it.
Häkämies knows that the Customs in Vyborg have even admitted the illegality of their sanctions, but they are only following instructions from the State Customs Committee.
According to Vyborg Customs, there are discrepancies in about 220 TIR transports carried out by Finnish companies. TIR trucks are not inspected at the border but at their final destinations.
So far, Vyborg Customs have filed 80 customs offence cases against such transports at the Vyborg Court.
Russian customs officials suspect dozens of transport operators of customs offences. Only some of these companies are Finnish.
The operators are suspected of having used false or forged documents in border crossings. Truckloads and entire trucks are suspected of having "disappeared" on their way to Russian destinations.
According to SKAL financial manager Veikko Kurronen, the Vyborg Customs has the right to look into the authenticity of the provided documentation, but ordering the trucks to be escorted requires a court decision.
"At the moment, one of our trucks is stuck in a customs cage on the Russian side in Nuijamaa. I would not dare to send more vehicles there right now", says director Petri Lindqvist of Kotka-based Transport Lindqvist.
Previously in HS International Edition:
TIR transports to Russia set to end; queues at Finnish border could reach record lengths (12.12.2002)