In a move to help boost its ailing economy in the far east of the country, Russia’s President Putin announced in his ‘state of the nation’ address that the Port of Vladivostok would be become a ‘free port’ by July 2015 – the first port in the country to be given that status.
Designed to boost trade and bolster the economy, which has suffered as a result of Western sanctions following the Ukraine crisis, the move would allow more relaxed customs regulations, the introduction of tax incentives for port operators, and a lower cost for ships using the port.
As the region is strategically placed with borders close to China and North Korea, the move will allow stronger ties to be developed with Asian nations, particularly China.
President Putin told the Russian Federal Council that it was ‘necessary’ to pay attention to the far eastern parts of Russia because of its recent economic growth. His comments signalled that Siberia and the Russian Far East are pivotal to forging closer ties with neighbouring Asian countries.
‘Russia has a high potential as a major power in the Asia-Pacific region. I propose to give to Vladivostok the status of free port with an attractive easy customs regime. Let me remind you that this is available in respect of Sevastopol and other ports of Crimea,’ he said.
However, Nadezhda Malysheva, the director of development agency Portnews, suggested that facilities in the Port of Vladivostok are limited by the city itself, as well as the vast military base. Instead, she believed it would be of more benefit to extend the new free zone to all ports in Primorsky Krai, including the ports Vostochny, near Nakhodka, and Zarubino.
In the first 10 month of 2014, figures show that far eastern ports handled 135.5m tonnes of cargo, around 25% of the total turnover of Russian ports, according to the Russian Association of Commercial Seaports. Vostochny was the most productive, handling 48.5m tonnes, while Vladivostok handled 12.9m tonnes.
The President also said he is keen to push ahead with the development of the Northern Shipping Route, giving more efficient access to Europe across the Arctic; Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been tasked with drafting and approving a plan for the route by next June.
(Source: The Siberian Times)