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New details announced on creation of Russia's first 'free port' in Far East

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 March 2015

Customs procedures and rules on foreigners staying in duty-free region will be relaxed in move that will bolster the economy and boost trade from 2016.

With a population of 600,000 Vladivostok is located at the head of Golden Horn Bay, not that far from the borders with China and North Korea. Picture: Commercial Port of Vladivostok

Russia's first 'free port' will be operational from 2016 in the Far East, it has been announced. In his state of the nation address in December, President Vladimir Putin announced Vladivostok had been chosen to benefit from the new status. 

Now more details about the move have been revealed by Primorsky Krai Governor Sergey Nekhaev, with the focus being placed on developing logistics, ship repairs, manufacturing, export-oriented and import-substituting industries, and agriculture.

The corresponding draft law will pass through parliament towards the end of the year and be later signed by the President, in a move seen as a way to boost trade and bolster the economy.

Mr Nekhaev said: 'This will provide an opportunity to start implementing it [the law] already in 2016.'

Along with adopting the draft on the free port in Vladivostok, the authorities will have to make amendments to more than 20 federal laws. These will ease customs procedures and the terms of stay for foreigners, and the new status will give the area a right to import and export certain goods without customs.

With a population of 600,000 Vladivostok is located at the head of Golden Horn Bay, not that far from the borders with China and North Korea.

Currently home to the Russian Pacific fleet, it was actually a free port in the late 19th century when its status allowed duty-free goods to be imported from abroad. This turned it into one of the largest ports in the world along with the likes of Hamburg and London, but the status was removed in 1909.

The idea to make Vladivostok a free port again came from Mindalvostokrazvitiya - the Ministry of Development of the Far East - and following the President's announcement officials have been working on a plan to facilitate the new customs regime.

The move will make the city an attractive option for overseas trade and help stimulate the economy, which has suffered as a result of Western sanctions following the Ukraine crisis.

Addressing the Federal Assembly last year, Mr Putin said it was 'necessary' to pay attention to the far eastern parts of Russia, particularly Siberia, because of its recent economic growth. The region is also strategically placed to aid the President’s pursuit of new stronger ties with Asian nations, particularly China.

He said: '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.'

Figures released by the Russian Association of Commercial Seaports last year show that, for the first 10 months of 2014, Far Eastern ports handled 135.5 million tonnes of cargo - about a quarter of the total turnover of Russian ports.

Most productive was Vostochny, which handled 48.5 million tonnes of cargo compared to Vladivostok, which was in fifth place with 12.9 million tonnes.

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