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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Low-Tech Customs Foils IRU Tracking

In a bid to fight cargo fraud and improve cooperation with the State Customs Committee, the Geneva-based International Road Transport Union offered last week to bolster current tracking systems with an additional electronic signal sent to Geneva.

Customs posts are already supposed to send an electronic signal to the State Customs Committee when they clear imported goods.

But customs provides the union, or IRU, with little feedback on deliveries entering Russia with special Transports Internationaux Routiers documents, IRU head of corporate communications Guy Willis said at an IRU-led seminar in Moscow.

The IRU provides about 60 percent of all trucks entering Russia with TIR documents, which enable carriers to whisk cargo across the border and clear customs at their destinations instead.

But Willis said Russian customs provides information immediately for only 0.01 percent of deliveries, within two days for 4 percent of the deliveries, while no information is given at all for half of the cargo shipments.

Lack of communication by Russian customs creates fertile ground for misuse of the TIR system, Willis said.

The IRU in November threatened to stop issuing TIR labels to trucks going into and out of Russia after customs officials demanded the IRU pay $60 million in insurance claims for undelivered cargo since 1999.

Willis said that if an additional electronic signal is transmitted to Geneva, IRU would be able to identify companies whose trucks fail to deliver cargo and stop issuing them TIR labels.

But customs officials said an extra electronic signal will not solve the problem.

Some customs points, especially in the Asian part of Russia, not only have no computers but lack telephones and cannot report on deliveries electronically.

"We have hundreds of kilometers of open borders, especially with Kazakhstan, and some customs there are just small wooden huts with a couple of officers in them," Irina Skibinskaya, spokeswoman for the State Customs Committee, said in a telephone interview Friday.

She would not say how many computers are needed to equip all customs posts or how much investment is needed to do so. The committee is relying on a $140 million loan from the World Bank, she said.

"The decision on the loan may be signed as soon as this spring, and the whole loan will be used on information technology," Skibinskaya said. "We hope that within the framework of this loan we will be able to resolve this particular issue."

Willis said the IRU delegation was pleased with the State Customs Committee's willingness to cooperate.

"There is understanding that increasing the speed with which information is sent benefits not only them but us, and it will allow us to work more effectively with them to detect where fraud is occurring," Willis said.

"We're confident that improvements will be certainly seen this year, and I think even in the first half of this year."