Freight transport Russia decided to close the customs point of the Saimaa canal, timber transports under threat – Russia has not told Finland the reason

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs is wondering about the reasons and consequences of the sudden decision. At least the timber transports are threatening to end in a couple of weeks.

Russia has unexpectedly decided to close its customs point on the Saimaa canal. The decision means that at least the transport of raw wood in the canal will end completely in early November.

In Finland, there is currently no wounded information on what exactly applies to the termination of a customs office. It is unclear whether, in addition to raw wood, the transport of other goods in the Saimaa canal will end.

Finland there is uncertainty in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is about the entry into force on 1 November in Russia of an amendment to the regulation on Russian border crossing points through which timber can be exported. It is accompanied by a list of border crossing points. In this change in the regulation, the customs office of the Saimaa canal is as if it has been crossed out, ie it has been deleted, ”says the Deputy Head of the Eastern Department. Mikko Kivikoski from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Kivikoski, Finland had received an early warning of a change in the regulation in the summer, but it did not mention the change concerning the Saimaa canal.

“This came as a bit of a surprise to all of us.”

Etelä-Saimaa magazine said a week ago that the Economic Commission for Finland and Russia will take into account the possible interruption of timber transportation.

“On the 12th day, two days before the meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee, we were informed that such a new pattern had emerged.”

It is unclear whether, in addition to raw wood, the transport of other goods in the Saimaa canal will end.

Finns raised the issue at the Economic Affairs Committee meeting in Helsinki last Thursday. The Minister of Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade was present at the meeting Ville Skinnari (sd) and the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.

From Finland’s point of view, the result was embarrassing, as no proper answers were received.

“First, we raised the issue of whether the information is accurate and what it is all about. We didn’t get a clear answer about what that means, ”says Kivikoski.

“What remains open to us are whether this applies to both exports and imports, and whether this applies only to round wood or, more broadly, to timber and forest products.”

The Finns had the impression that it was at least raw wood, but there is no complete certainty.

Can Russia’s decision also applies to canal traffic other than timber?

“We want clarification from all of them. We did not receive exhaustive answers to these during the meeting. ”

What could be the reason for the Russian decision?

“This is now being worked out.”

Finland and Russia have now agreed that Finland will send Russia more information on how much goods are moving in both directions in the Saimaa canal. In addition, Finland will send information on how important the Saimaa canal route is for Finland and the Finnish business community.

The Finns are asking Russia to return the Saimaa canal customs point back to the list of regulations so that freight traffic can continue as before.

“We are just sending an information package to the Russians,” says Kivikoski.

Kivikoski points out that imports of raw wood from Russia alone have accounted for about 30 percent of the canal’s freight traffic. In addition, forest sector products travel from Saimaa along the canal to the Baltic Sea and onwards.

“We emphasized to the Russians that the wood was bought from Russian operators and in fact the transport is handled by Russian shipping companies. This is also important for them in the regional economy. ”

“We emphasized to the Russians that the wood was bought from Russian operators. This is also important for them in the regional economy.”

For example in 2019, the total transport volume of the Saimaa canal was about one million tonnes. Import shipments accounted for 0.63 million tonnes and export shipments for 0.35 million tonnes.

0.38 million tonnes of raw wood was imported from Russia and the Baltic countries via the Saimaa canal to Lappeenranta, Imatra and Ristiina.

The total transport volume of the Saimaa Canal has decreased in recent years. Back in 2004, a record 2.37 million tonnes passed through the canal. The most significant factor affecting the volume of transport has been the decrease in raw wood imports.

The largest user of the channel is the forest industry in south-eastern Finland, which uses it to import raw wood and export end products. In addition, the channel is used by the chemical and construction industries, among others.

Fairway Agency is just making investments of almost one hundred million euros to improve the competitiveness of the Saimaa canal.

The length of the canal closures will be increased by 11.5 meters to 93 meters, and the water level of the canal will be raised to allow larger vessels to be used for transportation.

The maximum cargo for cargo vessels can then be increased from the current 2,500 tonnes to more than 3,000 tonnes.

A contractor tender is currently underway for the project. The expansion work will begin in October next year and will last for two years.

“Significant investments are being made in the Saimaa Canal from the Finnish side,” says Kivikoski.

“This is also an aspect that has been brought to the attention of the Russians.

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