Thursday, October 17, 2013

Freight and Road Haulage Groups Join Governments in TIR Convention Protests

UN Declares Russia to be Breaking International Law
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA – The conflict involving the country’s Federal Customs Service’s (FCS) actions in imposing additional conditions, including guarantees, on freight and road haulage parties conducting export, import and domestic TIR operations, has, once again, been declared illegal by the responsible bodies of the United Nations. Governments with contracting associates of the TIR Convention, having confirmed a breach of international law, have called for an immediate cancellation of the policy, described by the FCS as ‘modifications’, but lambasted by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), as ‘flagrant defiance of the law’.

As we detailed previously the Russian Federation’s customs acted, they say, as a result of the high number of unfulfilled TIR Carnets which saw goods undelivered and the consequential non-payment of duties. Now the British International Freight Association (BIFA) informs us that the AC.2, which is the highest decision-making body of the TIR Convention, has clearly confirmed that all recent steps undertaken by the FCS are ‘contrary to the commitments of the Russian Federation under the TIR Convention’, this following the call by the government delegations during the recent United Nations Working Party on Customs questions affecting Transport (WP.30).

Despite the official confirmation earlier this summer from the UN body in charge of supervising the TIR Convention, the TIR Executive Board, that this breached the UN TIR Convention (and thus international law), the Russian Customs nonetheless started introducing illegal restrictions on TIR guarantees step-by-step in the Far Eastern, Siberian and Ural Customs Directorate and, despite all entreaties the FCS then extended the new terms from the original areas we listed originally into the larger Volga region, thus affecting many more shippers and hauliers.

Last month the IRU wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, without apparently eliciting a worthwhile response, causing IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto, to state:

“We are faced with an extraordinary situation. The governments of the Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention, the European Union and now the highest UN TIR bodies have all confirmed that Russia is violating international law. Everyone in the public and private sectors is unanimously calling on Russian Customs to withdraw their unilateral and unfounded measures, which if implemented, will impact trade with Russia, and, moreover, the Russian economy and its citizens. Yet, Russian Customs keeps extending its unlawful measures, even on the same day as the UN bodies met to discuss the matter. This flagrant defiance of international law must now stop!

“Russia has a long tradition of respecting international law and United Nations instruments as the best means of maintaining international peace and security, especially as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Governments and the trade community are thus behind me in calling upon the highest competent decision-making bodies of the Russian Federation, to finalise as soon as possible their consultations, before it is too late for Russian trade and its people.”