Friday, May 10, 2013

Road Haulage Trucks Close Border to Freight Traffic

Allegations of Permit Cheating and Discrimination Come to a Head
Shipping News Feature

EASTERN EUROPE – Road haulage operators throughout Western Europe have grown used to the ease with which borders can be transited with the development of free trade over the past few decades. It seems that the situation further east however sometimes harks backs to days when driving an international freight vehicle could prove a lot more complex and time consuming experience as one customs point was closed to freight traffic allowing only buses and private cars to cross.

The rumbling row between Turkish and Bulgarian authorities over the imbalance between the countries two sets of road carriers was stepped up this week as hundreds of vehicles queued back along the border road to Svilengrad after blocking the Kapitan Andreevo crossing. The Bulgarians claim that Turkish authorities have been making the transit of their vehicles increasingly bureaucratic and drivers have been subjected to unnecessary delays when crossing into Turkey.

The Turks are unhappy saying around 80% of road freight between the two is going to Bulgar carriers and representatives of the Association of the Bulgarian Enterprises for International Road Transport (AEBTRI) are demanding government intervention saying that, as a member of the European Union, the problems are an unfounded restriction of trade by a candidate country, keen to have their application for membership (which Turkey lodged in 2005), accepted.

Local press sources quote AEBTRI staff as saying often ‘have to give money’ to Customs officials to bypass the strictly enforced disciplines of the Turkish road haulage permits saying:

“We are given certain deadlines, such as 8 days to go to Germany and return. However, the transportation may be realised in less days and then we have to wait at the parking lots, so as to meet the deadlines and be allowed to enter into Turkey. The deadline to go to England is 11 days, while to France – 9 days. We cannot do our job properly. We have been hired to render a transportation service in 5-6 days, while they [the Turkish authorities] add a couple of days more.”

Perhaps the most serious charge is the allegation that the Customs chief has written to all border posts instructing them to check for the practice of ‘double passing’ saying the letter states ‘especially Bulgarian vehicles’. This practice is yet another driver scam in order to avoid the restrictions imposed by the permit regulations and mirrors others previously reported elsewhere but the Bulgarians are incensed they have been singled out for what they perceive as persecution.

The row escalated further when Petko Angelov, deputy chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Road Transport Unions (BASAT) which represents around 60% of the countries hauliers, alleged to local journalists that it was the Turkish Ministry of Transport which instructed the head of Customs in Ankara to distribute the contentious letter and that those who breach the regulations should simply be banned whereas currently there were €100 ‘fines’ in place.

Latest reports state that the blockade has been lifted and trucks are once again transiting the border but it is highly unlikely that this is the end of the problem with meetings between the authorities of both countries likely to discuss the situation after the action by hauliers over the past day or so.