In the transport and logistics world, Belarus is known for its inexhaustible transit resources, which continue to hold considerable promise for the country’s economic development.
The country’s transit advantages originally led to the creation of a special AsstrA customs unit there in 2004. Over 15 years the department has grown from one person into a team of highly qualified experts, and today AsstrA is one of the largest customs carriers in Belarus. The department now has offices in Minsk and Brest, within the jurisdictions of the Minsk Regional and Brest Customs Authorities, respectively.
We talked about its key operational aspects and plans for the future with the Head of the Customs Department in Belarus, Natalia Murzich.
- Natalia, what has driven the all-round growth of the customs department?
Booming demand for international transportation from Belarusian companies doing more business abroad have, of course, played a key role. Over the past 20 years, traffic flows through Belarus have quadrupled. Simplification of customs procedures, the resolution of technical and infrastructure problems, massive construction of new logistics centers, and more border checkpoints have all had positive impacts here. Higher shipment volumes also mean more demand for support with customs and statistical declaration procedures.
One of the main reasons for creating this department was to support customers with customs transit documentation necessary for the processing and onward distribution of groupage cargoes. Our comprehensive range of outsourcing services helps minimize costs and shipment times for cargo recipients and senders of small cargoes. Further, we have proven the effectiveness of a single-window system in which a client may submit an application for transportation and receive a end-to-end commercial offer to provide full customs support services, including not only transit declaration processing but also import / export clearance.
With 15 years of experience, the department provides a full set of customs services to all clients – both those who rely on AsstrA for regular shipments and those who need only clearance. That being said, about 80% of our clients choose our full customs services package. These statistics speak for themselves when it comes to judging the quality of our offerings.
- What are the offerings? Which is the most popular?
AsstrA clients can already take advantage of a few dozen services. Highlights include declaring Belarusian individuals and business entities, internal customer service, official representation of client interests before the customs authorities, providing electronic preliminary information, and consulting. Registration in Belarus is made at 14 customs posts that cover auto, rail, air, and mail transport.
Every year, department experts draw up from 3,000 to 3,500 declarations for cargo shipments of all complexities: from dangerous goods to oversize and highly liquid ones.
- Who would be a typical client of AsstrA’s Belarusian customs department?
Generally speaking, our typical clients are Belarusian importers. Uniquely in Belarus, the AsstrA team provides delivery design on Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) terms. Customs procedures for non-residents of Belarus are objectively complex and lengthy. Within the DDP framework, AsstrA also provides a trading service in which we actually arrange the delivery of goods to ourselves. In this way, a client can avoid paying certain types of fees and undergoing lengthy certification or clearance procedures, etc.
- Natalia, what are the key advantages of working with AsstrA that customers most appreciate?
In 2011, AsstrA was one of the first Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs) in Belarus. With this status we could simplify several procedures in accordance with Belarusian legislation. We guaranteed the payment of customs duties when transporting goods across the Republic of Belarus without customs escorts – all without opening a TIR-Carnet or paying customs fees in cash. In 2018, the possibilities accompanying this status were expanded in accordance with the norms of the new Customs Code. The status is recognized across the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Having our own office at the Minsk customs clearance point allows us to ensure the prompt handling of goods and documents, the personal presence of qualified specialists during the inspection of goods, the proper selection of samples for regulatory bodies, and much more.
Our specialists undergo regular training to constantly improve the services we offer and discover new ways to solve challenges that might seem unsolvable at first glance.
It is also important that we have our own customs offices in Poland, Germany, and Lithuania. We can provide high-quality customs escort services in these countries. A wide network of branches, integrated into a single information system, allows our team to provide clients and suppliers with up-to-date information on the transport status and customs clearance of cargoes.
These factors are the basis for long and fruitful cooperation with both new and established AsstrA customers. It is important for us not just to keep afloat, but also to be a flagship.