Political problems decrease haulage

  • 2000-04-20
  • By Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Because of political differences between Russia and Latvia, the number of licenses held by truck drivers crossing the border has decreased dramatically over the last two years. In 1998 the two countries had 30,000 licenses each. Today they have 13,000. According to Valdis Trezins, secretary general of Latvijas Auto, Latvia is losing a lot of money as long as the transit licenses stay on the low side.

"About 10 percent of all cargo by trucks goes from Latvia to Russia, and 60 percent of all cargo by road goes to Russia. We have an agreement with Russia concerning international transport. Russian truckers prefer to drive through Latvia because it is faster and cheaper. But if the Russians want to go through Latvia, they will need more licenses. Of course we would want more too. Business is business," Trezins said.

However, dealing with the Russians may be very unpredictable and the rules change often.

"We don't know what will happen if the Duma changes its mind, if there will be sanctions, or if there will be new rules. The biggest problems lie in the politics between Russia and Latvia. It is a pain, but our future is close to Russia," Trezins explained.

Today there is a special border crossing, Terehovo, for Russian trucks. It takes only 15 minutes for the drivers to receive a visa by the border. Approximately 100 visas are issued every month for Russian truck drivers.

"Very often the trucks come empty to Latvia because of difficulties finding loads in Russia," said Andrejs Broders, head of the division for international road haulage.

Valdis Trezins is convinced that although transit is where the future lies for Latvia, not only in road carriers but trains and ferries as well. He thinks Latvia is making $10 per ton transporting through Latvia.

"By the end of the year we would like to see the number of licenses doubled for trucks. It would be a good start, but we need to get back to 30,000," he said.

Latvijas Auto is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization with 900 members, all companies, working with transport issues in Latvia. Trezins has been working hard trying to get the Latvian government to realize, the importance of Latvian transit.

Because of Latvia's geographical location, logistics and transport are growing with companies investing money and moving in. Therefore Latvija's Auto and its counterpart in Russia, ASMAP, Russian International Cargo Organization, is planning a joint venture to start a new ferry line to Germany from Latvia.

"There are already some ferry lines, but they are expensive. If we can organize it ourselves, we can bring the price down," he said.