Negotiations in Helsinki between the Finnish and Russian ministries of transport on container transport via Finland to Russia, and on drawing up a new agreement on road traffic between the two countries, fell flat in Thursday.
According to Finnish negotiators, the Russian delegation was not authorised to decide on the matters that were under discussion.
The only new matter that came up was the initiative drawn up by the delegation to move container transport to the port of Ust-Luga on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, about 100 kilometres from St. Petersburg.
Ust-Luga has been under construction for more than ten years, and is about half finished.
“It was a completely new idea. However, a representative of Russian drivers noted that no such transports had been considered for Ust-Luga”, said Antti Seppälä, head of foreign transport of the organisation Finnish Transport and Logistics (SKAL).
Despite opposition by the ministries of transport of both countries, the Russian customs service is planning to implement a decree ordering that all freight containers entering Russia should be transported by sea or rail.
The decree would apply to transport via Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine.
“The views of Russian Customs and the Ministry of Transport on the container matters are considerably at odds with each other”, Seppälä says.
Harri Nordström, CEO of the Finnish container transport company Container Finance, sees Ust-Luga as an unrealistic option.
“It will not be ready to cope with 200,000 additional containers. Road and rail connections from Ust-Luga will not yet handle such an amount”, Nordström estimates.
Last year about 200,000 containers were transported to Russia through Finland, and only about 7,000 of them went by rail.
Containerships has a terminal in the port of St. Petersburg Nordström estimates the combined capacity of the ports of St. Petersburg and Ust-Luga at about two million containers a year.
Nordström says that one reason why Russian Customs is so eager to move the containers from the Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa border stations to Ust-Luga is a desire to weed out fraudulent customs declarations.
“The unfortunate truth is that Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa are popular, because there it is possible to make deals with familiar customs officers”, Nordström says.
“The Russian customs service wants the transport away from the road transport customs in order to make sure that the right customs fees are paid.”
Discussions in Helsinki with a delegation headed by Deputy Transport Minister Yevgeni Moskvichov on renewing the road transport treaty and on road use fees did not move forward on Thursday.
“Civil servants will continue their negotiations on the contract matter in August and September”, said Juhani Tervala, the highest-ranking civil servant at the Finnish Ministry of Transport.
Source: Helsingin Sanomat