Who Barred the Transit of Moldovan Truckloads through Ukraine?

Economic

For almost two weeks the supply of Ukraine transit permits for Moldovan truckers has been empty. The authorities in the neighboring country say the documents were being printed. 

Moldovan fruit/vegetable producers and manufacturers complain that their cold stores and warehouses are full. Shipping operators who shuttle between Moldova and Russia, and other CIS countries have run out of transit permits for Ukraine.

Permit stock dries out three months earlier

„This is a situation that keeps repeating for years and this year the stock of permits dried out three months earlier, at the beginning of autumn,” says Dumitru Albuleasa, executive director at the Moldovan Union of Transporters and Roadbuilders (UTD). Both the Ministry of Transportation and Road Infrastructure (MTIC) and the National Motor Transport Agency (ANTA) are aware of this condition but none has move a finger to redress it, according to Mr Albuleasa.

„This is happening at a time when many producers are looking desperately to keep their buyers in Russia and the shortage of permits keeps them on ground instead. It’s not clear why the stock dried out so early given that the number of permits was the same as in precedent years. Didn’t MTID or ANTA know that we were running out of transit permits, couldn’t they talk to the Ukrainian side?” the UTD leader wonders.

Ukraine issues more than 45,000 bilateral and transit permits to Moldovan shipping operators but truckers are likely to stay home and apples and grapes would remain locked in cold stores. Moldovan officials traveled to Ukraine for talks and promised to return with solutions within days, Mr Albuleasa continued. “We insist for years to liberalize trade with Ukraine – and the government in Kiev agrees – so I don’t get why the Moldovan authorities are silent over the initiative.”

Iurie Chirinciuc, Moldova’s minister of transportation, announced in a Facebook post on September 8 that the issue with permits was one of the topics he raised at his meeting with Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Vladimir Omelyan. „The problem will be settled within days and we’ll receive a few thousands permits,” Mr Chirinciuc promised.

Who’s to blame

Ten days have passed and no one at the MTID ever came affront to let producers when they could start shipping their produce. AMTA officials point to Ukraine’s authorities as the source of this incident.

„We are waiting for Ukraine to start shipping us those permits. We were told that a few thousands permits would be printed and shipped to Moldova next week (19-25 September),” Ion Crețu of ANTA told Mold-Street. At the same time he admits the idea that a large part of unused permits is held by shipping companies. The Ukrainian authorities track the permits and the number has not changed lately, which means that someone hides a part of those documents, for a reason, according to Mr Crețu.

A permit for transit of Moldovan produce or other goods via Ukraine costs between 10 and 15 euros and the money goes into ANTA’s coffers. Sources who asked to remain unnamed speak of a black market for Ukraine transit permits, which sell for two or three prices.

„We’ve askd for more transparency. We want the permits to be issued according to the number of trucks and a tracking record to exist for each permit so that everyone knows how many permits were distributed and how many were returned. We’d like to avoid seeing that a firm operating two trucks gets ten permits, the same number of permits issued to a firm operating ten trucks,” Dumitru Albuleasa said.

ANTA ruled at the beginning of 2016 that each long vehicle transportation unit would receive one permit for Ukraine transit or entry. The ruling is likely to be neglected and some firms receive two or more permits for each truck, Mr Albuleasa explains. The best solution for this issue is to liberalize the transit of goods from Moldova through Ukraine – as it is the case with Romania.

The authorities assure that talks with the Ukrainians were underway. In May 2016 Minister Chirinciuc discussed about the need to update the 1993 bilateral agreement on international motor traffic by liberalizing the terrestrial shipping services. It is unclear whether the sides had reached an agreement or continued the talks on this issue.

For the time being the agreement remained unchanged and more than 90% of Moldovan truckers still who use Ukraine as a transit territory for shipping goods and produce to ex-Soviet countries still need to get a formal transit permit.

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