With Russia and its regional trading partners preparing for meetings on expanding their Customs Union agreement, logistics operators and forwarders say they still face confusing and outdated procedures at Russian ports and airports that drive up costs for shippers and transport providers.
Perry Neumann, managing director of Kuehne+Nagel for Russia and Belarus, said shipping procedures and customs regulations were complicated and could change at short notice, while the availability of electronic declaration procedures was sporadic.
“Less bureaucracy and more transparency could make the process more efficient,” he said.
The comments came as Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus prepared for meetings this month aimed at eliminating customs barriers to facilitate the flow of goods across their borders.
Freight forwarders say the nations also need to pay more attention to easing the movement of broader international goods.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business 2011” survey ranks Russia 123 out of 183 economies in terms of the ease of doing business. In the ‘trading across borders’ subsection, Russia is ranked 162nd, with document preparation and customs procedures sometimes adding weeks to the time taken to organise each shipment.
Stefan Karlen, Black and Caspian Sea area manager for Panalpina, said in an interview that Russian bureaucracy in general was “complex and slow” with timeframes difficult to anticipate and predict
He said Panalpina had developed e-customs clearance with Russian authorities to allow clearance within tight timeframes. “However,” he said, “certain customs posts are not yet equipped with the required hardware or trained sufficiently on the new procedures of e-customs and therefore processes are still slow in some cases.”
Marco Leineweber, country manager for Russia at DHL Freight, said part of the problem was that Russian customs officials were focused on evaluation and enforcement rather than facilitation.
He hopes the Customs Union would provide relief for shippers and forwarders. “The basic principles of the member states will include the application of a common customs tariff among the members, the cancellation of customs duties in mutual trade, a single customs policy towards third states and a single tariff and non tariff regulation,” he said.
“This will clearly provide new and huge opportunities,” said Leineweber.