Efforts continue to speed up border cargo flow

  • 2001-07-05
  • Sergei Stepanov
NARVA - Estonian and Russian customs officials and transport company representatives spent two days of heated discussions at a forum in the resort town of Narva-Joesuu, close to the border between the two countries, last week.

They concluded that speedy and reliable background information about cargo transported across the border would significantly speed up transit traffic.

The basic problem is that Estonian and Russian customs are not cooperating well due to different data processing software being used in the Ivangorod and Narva customs offices. A clear example of the lack of coordination are long lines of trucks at the border during the peak days of transit, from Wednesdays to Saturdays.

Drivers sometimes spend over 24 hours before officials approve their way through.

Both countries, however, are not eager to let the other explore their customs-related computer systems.

Andrei Belonogov, deputy head of Russia's northwestern customs department, said his office receives insufficient funding for technical upgrades and suffers from poor communication between border checkpoints and the main office in St. Petersburg.

Russian customs officers also need to overcome a psychological barrier for technical innovations, he said.

"For example, we installed an electronic system to send cargo declarations right to the center (in St. Petersburg) in the customs office in the town of Vyborg on the Finnish border. Since then the office suffered several mystical disasters like electricity problems, the theft of the declarations database and other things," said Belonogov.

He added that the possible reason was that some of the officers were corrupt and tried to hamper the normal working of the system.

Ivangorod is located right across the river from Narva and is the number one trouble spot for transit cargo flow between Russia and Estonia, forum participants said.

Oleg Kandrushin, the head of Russia's Kingisepp customs office near Ivangorod, said that an increase in cargo flow through Ivangorod would take money and the reconstruction of the customs building, which currently does not allow the processing of more than one truck at a time. Today the Ivangorod customs can handle 45 to 50 trucks a day, and Kandrushin hopes this figure will double in the future.

He also said Estonia and Russia need an agreement on customs cooperation.

However, another way to boost customs work, a preliminary cargo declaration will be tested beginning in August.

According to Estonian and Russian customs departments, about 70 percent of cargo declarations are returned because of mistakes. The idea is to make drivers and transport companies declare the cargo in special branch offices of Russian customs agencies to be open all over Estonia beginning in August.

A similar system is successfully working between Russia and Finland.