As a consequence of the dramatic increase of package shipments from abroad – consisting mainly of parcels sent from foreign online retailers to customers in Russia – up to 500 tons of parcels massed up earlier this month at Moscow’s airports and customs check points.

In a rare move, Deutsche Post urged a probe into the situation, sending a letter to its Russian counterpart regarding the reasons why trucks containing postal cargoes from Germany have to wait so long for customs clearance.

The government ordered that the Russian Post be reformed and moved under the direct authority of the Communications and Press Ministry, and that new instruments of financing be found to modernize the organization.

The postal operator, meanwhile, claimed it had significantly strengthened its infrastructure to meet the growing postal traffic, and that a shortage of customs personnel was the main cause of the congestion.

The postal organization stated it had repeatedly approached the Federal Customs Service with requests to increase its staff at the busiest logistics points, but its requests were in vain. As a result, while the postal service presents for examination up to 48,000 small parcels per day in the Moscow region, customs can inspect no more than 25,000 to 37,000.

In response, the Federal Customs Service accused the Russian Post of ineffectiveness, and cited the government’s demands to optimize the number of state employees as the reason it had not added more inspectors.

After crisis task forces were set up by the postal operator and the customs service, the crisis has begun to gradually resolve. As of April 23rd, however, approximately 56 tons of parcels were still stuck in the Moscow area. The Russian Post told East-West Digital News that the congestion will completely disappear in a matter of weeks.

The Russian Post has also reached agreements with its foreign counterparts to redirect large portions of the mail flows to other cities. While air cargo carriers from Southeast Asia are switching to Novosibisrk, Siberia, those from Scandinavia will land in St. Petersburg instead of concentrating in Moscow, which has supported 90% of the international postal traffic up to now.

“We’ve been suggesting such changes for years, but they were not adopted until air transport companies simply refused to serve the congested Sheremyetevo airport in Moscow,” the Russian Post noted in a press release.

As EWDN’s recent report on Russian e-commerce revealed, from Amazon and eBay to a myriad of niche retailers in virtually every market, foreign retail players selling directly or indirectly to Russia report yearly growth of up to seven-fold.

Online cross-border trade may have been close to the level of two billion dollars in 2012 – nearly doubling from the previous year, according to EWDN experts. Russian consumers appreciate foreign retailers’ diversified assortment and enjoy virtually tax-free purchases.

Sources: Russian Post, ITAR-TASS

RUSSIAN E-COMMERCE AND CROSS BORDER SALES REPORTS – The total volume of Russian online retail reached $13 billion last year (up 27% from 2011), not including an approximate $2 billion for cross border sales. In partnership leading universities and consultancies, EWDN has published an in-depth research on this industry. 

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