Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russia's economy booms, and cargo traffic piles up at Finnish border

From the International Herald Tribune:

The next time you complain about waiting in line, spare a thought for Pavel.
On a recent day, he parked his truck in a line stretching for five kilometers, or three miles, and this was a good day at the Finnish-Russian border.

Russia's economy is booming, and its hunger for new cars, televisions and machinery means that the transit routes through Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are clogged with trucks.
Because of this heavy trans-border traffic, Finland is now as large a trading partner for Russia as is the United States, but customs posts on the border are struggling to cope.

Pavel makes a return trip to Finland once a week; this time it was with a truck full of electronic equipment for Moscow.

wo weeks ago he spent 48 hours waiting to get back home. Last winter, the lines stretched for more than 60 kilometers.

While the vehicles are stuck at the border, retailers in Russia and the transportation companies are losing money and local people are scared to drive on the roads with one lane blocked by trucks.

The Finns blame the Russians for the lines, which are also a problem in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

"Last year we had queues on 300 days," said Mika Poutiainen, head of Finnish customs at Vaalimaa, 186 kilometers east of Helsinki.

Vaalimaa is Finland's busiest border crossing to Russia, dealing with 700 to 800 trucks a day. Poutiainen says Finnish customs could double the number of trucks that pass through because processing export papers takes only a few minutes. "But because of the different kinds of procedures, the limit is set by the Russian side," he said.

Russians prefer to import goods through Finland to minimize theft and because Russian harbors near St. Petersburg do not have enough unloading equipment or warehouses.

The amount of goods imported through Finland has doubled since 2002 to about three million tons in 2006, and the Russian Transport Ministry acknowledges that its officials cannot handle the growing number of vehicles....MORE (including a picture of a line of trucks!)