Moscow officials and Vladivostok fishermen in consultation over urgent issues of mandatory customs clearance of EEZ's catch
Established under the late December order of Russia's State Fisheries Agency a working group consisting of official representatives from the Agency, the Federal Customs Service and the Frontier Service who came to discuss urgent problems arising from the new regulation on mandatory customs clearance of EEZ's catch at home ports as of 1 January 2009, reports www.fishnet-russia.com (www.fishnet.ru) with reference to Fishnews.
The problems discussed at the meeting are connected mostly with discrepancies in legislation. In particular, the law enforcement bodies have been made responsible for the delays with the issue of necessary papers, while the responsibility of the shipowners for the duly calls at port have not been specified. In the meantime, sometimes vessels call at port ahead of the schedule thus creating obstacles for the customs and other structures who are in charge of clearing the cargo within three hours.
The legal documents with all their merits and demerits are mandatory and their drawbacks should be eliminated on the way. Coordination at the local level has been entrusted to territorial departments of Rosselkhoznadzor (Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance) which should exchange information with the service's head office in Moscow on the daily basis.
Another issue raised at the meeting and remaining unsolved so far touches the legal status of aquatic biological resources harvested in the Russian EEZ. The thing is that the Russian product definition in the Customs Code is not completely fit for seafood harvested in the REEZ, thus causing use of double standards. More specifically, if seafood brought to port shall not be regarded as Russian products, the fishermen shall have the right to clear them in a simplified order as transit cargo. If the fish is of the Russian origin, as customs officers insist, after paying duties the companies shall receive a VAT refund. However, according to Article 165 of the nation's Tax Code, in order to get the money back the fishermen have to present the unloading order issued by the customs, but the vessels will often call at port for clearance only while the cargo will not be landed but shipped further for export.
Alexey Bereznyak, deputy head of the Fleet, Port and Monitoring Department of Russia's Federal Fisheries Agency, has commented on the above inconsistencies saying that the working group which has been established exactly towards discovery and elimination of these hauls shall optimize legislation with the deadlines depending on the body of final consent. In particular, an Agency's order may be prepared within several days to be followed by 30 days for registration in the Russian Ministry of Justice. Preparation and signing of Government's orders will take 2-3 months and changes in the federal laws (e.g. amendments to Codes) will take at least 6 months.
Another bottleneck highlighted at the meeting in Vladivostok is connected with the responsibility for spoiled goods in case of forced landing, for example in order to check information about suspected misreporting of the species structure of the cargo meant for export. In real life transport reefers will practically never ship cargo belonging to one company, the number of cargo owners sometimes reaches 15 and should one consigner violate the requirements, the remaining group of consigners would also bear losses and the fishermen think it unfair. According to the spokesmen from the Russian Shrimpers' Association, the appropriate temperature regime for seafood storage may be secured only by a handful of the existing coldstores only and the cargo owners are not happy in advance with potential need to unload cargoes for inspection in cases of suspected violations.
Besides, at the meeting the fishermen asked the customs officers to explain the mechanism of defining the customs value of the exported seafood. In particular, the calculations of the customs duties are often based on prices differing from the actual indications and with no respect to seasonal fluctuations of the demand for seafood. In this connection the APO Fishermen's Association has stepped forward with the initiative to provide the customs office with the information on the current prices for fish products.
At the same time, at the meeting the fishermen had the least to complain against veterinary inspectors of Rosselkhoznadzor who were showing a fairly high level of work under the new regulations. More specifically, towards minimization of time for issue of veterinary documents (export permits, etc.) Rosselkhoznadzor has ordered that the veterinary certificates for seafood consignments, meant for exportation and not landed in the customs control zone of the Russian Federation, shall be processed by the respective territorial departments of Rosselkhoznadzor (while earlier the export certificates have been issued by head office in Moscow). And Vladivostok Department of the Service has introduced accelerated procedure of issuing export permits for aquatic biological resources. The veterinary certificates are being issued on the basis of information in the regional data base on seafood safety indices for particular fishing area. The samples of fish health, which have been taken this year, were barely sufficient and they were meant for the data base update.
Head of Vladivostok Department of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dymov explained the difference between the state control certificate 5i and the health certificate which is required by the EU and China. According to the Russian laws, the latter certificate is not obligatory, but it becomes so if the exporter wishes to bring fish to the above mentioned markets.
Speaking on behalf of the Basin's fishermen, Chairman of APO Fishermen's Association Mr. German Zverev said that the fishermen saw the attention and willingness of Moscow officials to gain an understanding of vessel and catch clearance and solve the most urgent issues in this connection.