Blurred border lines in the water
There is a complicated situation in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland concerning marine border crossing: mooring of commercial vessels at some anchorage locations in the harbours of Primorsk and Ust-Luga appeared to be illegal. Border service officials reported fines had been imposed. Now to solve the problem it is to be micromanaged.
Surprise in the Baltic
Participants of the shipping market say that as of July 22, 2019, officers of the Border Directorate of the FSB of Russia began imposing fines on masters and shipowners for violation the law of the Russian Federation (dated Apr. 1, 1993 No. 4730-I) “On the State Border of the Russian Federation”. Four spokespersons for various shipping companies and maritime agents have told IAA PortNews that the problem of complying with the laws of the Russian Federation was faced by the ships sailing to the ports in the Gulf of Finland, Ust-Luga and Primorsk. As it happens, anchorage sites of these ports (near the islands of Gogland and Seskar) were not included in the designated limits of Russia’s border crossing checkpoints. The law on the state border of the Russian Federation says that a vessel crossing the border of the Russian Federation must immediately proceed to the checkpoint across the border. Among other things, any stopover of a ship along the way is prohibited. Thus, a ship stopping at an anchorage which is located outside the boundaries of a checkpoint violates the state border crossing law, which entails the imposition of a fine on the master or shipowner in case of repeated violation of this regulation by the ships.
Besides, according to the FSB Border Directorate for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, the anchorage areas of the Ust-Luga harbour are defined in Appendix 4 to the “Ust-Luga Seaport By-Laws” (approved by the Russian Transport Ministry, order dated Jan. 15, 2013 No. 6). The above appendix provides a complete list of anchorage locations of the Port of Ust-Luga and anchorage No. 10A was not put in the list, as it is not mentioned in other By-laws regulations for ports located in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland.
Overall, in the period from July 22, 2019 24 masters of sea-going vessels bound for foreign ports have been fined for violation of the marine border crossing law at anchorage areas in the Gulf of Finland. The total amount of imposed fines rose to more than RUB 700,000.
Article 18.1. of Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, the fine for these violations by officials ranges RUB 30,000 to RUB 50,000, while the fine imposed on legal entities varies from 400,000 to RUB 800,000.
On August 7, the Russian FSB’s Border Service, in agreement with the Gulf of Finland seaport authorities, decided to temporarily permit the vessels bound for the Russian harbours anchor at location No. 10 and No. 12 of the Gulf of Finland before the state border control procedure begins. However, stopover at anchorage sites No. 10 and No. 12 is allowed only after obtaining permission. To get the permission, masters should submit the details about the vessel, her route and the crew to the Border Service.
On August 9, the Coordination council at a meeting hosted by Border Service at the sea border crossing point in the Leningrad region based Port of Ust-Luga approved the decision to give green light to temporary anchorage of Russian and foreign flagged commercial vessels at anchorage location No 11A. Vessels which had not passed border, customs and other control procedures are allowed using use the above location as a waiting place if the seaport terminals are not ready to accommodate them. At the same time, stopovers at the anchorage location No. 10A are still prohibited.
Obviously, to resolve this complicated problem it is necessary to amend the relevant regulations. We believe that the absence of permanent “legal” anchorage sites eventually will undermine the attractiveness of Russian ports and negatively affects the safety of shipping.