Russia has always been a center of attraction, whether we look at its vast steppes, freezing cold winters, fiery drinks or lovely inhabitants. Nevertheless, its recent actions in the field of international road transport put the land of the Tsars to a slightly dim light. Let us look at the reasons why.
TIR crisis in Russia
Russia announced the introduction of new measures requesting additional guarantees for goods moved by road under cover of the TIR procedure. Following the first announcement in July and the uproar by the international community, the Russian Federal Customs Service announced on 13 September 2013 that the decision introducing a requirement for other guarantees for goods transported under cover of TIR Carnet will be applicable in the customs offices subordinate to the Siberian and Far Eastern regional customs administrations. The regular TIR procedure will continue to be performed at all other customs offices until 1 December 2013.
The official reasoning claims that the TIR guarantee agreement between Russian customs and the authorized guaranteeing organization, Ассоциация международных автомобильных перевозчиков (ASMAP) is not in line with national or Customs Union legislation, thus leading to unduly administered outstanding customs claims.
How the measures impact the TIR system
TIR is a universal transit system that allows the goods to transit from a country of origin to a country of destination in sealed load compartments through the use of a standard, internationally recognized customs document, the TIR Carnet. The Carnet also serves as proof of existence of an internationally valid guarantee. Among its numerous benefits, the management of a low cost, high value guarantee and the movement of goods across international borders with minimum interference could be pointed out.
It is evident that financial aspects, in particular, the guarantee system play a key role in the proper functioning of the TIR system. The International Road Transport Union (IRU), which implements the TIR System, works hand in hand with IRU Member Associations that issue TIR Carnets, guarantee transport operations under TIR, grant access to the TIR System to transport operators to ensure everything runs smoothly. Altering the guarantee requirements unilaterally does not only affect the economic operators of the jurisdiction implementing such measures, but those of all Contracting Parties, at present 68, as well as the international bodies involved in the system.
What to do now?
Apart from conducting a thorough fact-finding exercise to verify/contradict the above reasoning, the IRU also published recommendations for all transport operators driving to, from and across Russia, in case TIR Carnets are illegally refused by some Russian Customs officers.
The key point is to obtain a formal confirmation of refusal in writing whereas follow-up actions in the form of a lawsuit may also be considered. The provision of any additional guarantees should only be considered after the receipt of the official refusal to accept the TIR Carnet in writing. As the saying goes: ’live with wolves, and you learn to howl. / С волками жить, по-волчьи выть.’