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2017 September 11

Where are Crimea carriers’ licenses?

Three years after Crimea reunited with Russia, some of local carries offering sea trips for tourists still work off the books. Yet, the number of licensed carriers is much higher.

Meanwhile, a journalistic experiment shows that license is a hard-hitting question for most of ship owners. Two-day inquiry held in Sevastopol and Balaklava resulted in only three licenses demonstrated to journalists.

Sea carriers in Crimea were allowed to work without licenses till 1 June 2015. The deadline was postponed to 1 September amid the difficulties associated with the procedure as some entrepreneurs had to go to Rostov-on-Don where Southern Sea/Inland Supervision Department (SSISD) is located. However, many carriers still work without licenses.

All in all, Rostransnadzor’s SSISD issued 546 licenses including 214 licenses for Crimea and Sevastopol. Of this number, 198 licenses allow transportation of passengers, SSISD told IAA PortNews.

One license obtained by any entity covers all of its ships. Therefore, the number of such ships can exceed the number of issued licenses.

Sea trips in Sevastopol

IAA PortNews correspondent pretending to be arranging a sea trip for a group of children coming from Saint-Petersburg visited the main embankment of Sevastopol to ask the carriers for a license. Having talked to almost all carriers between Artbuhta and Grafskaya Pristan (25-30 carriers) the correspondent saw only 2 licenses. It took 5 minutes for one of the ship owners to find a license and he did not let see the document’s number or the date of issue.

The other license was available at the advertisement poster on the pier. Its number is actually among the documents issued by Rostransnadzor.

Where are the licenses?

Most of those who did not show the license claimed they had it, but not onboard. They either had to “go to the office” or were “ready to show it in case of their service use”. One of ship owners recommended to track down each license’ number since such a document can be printed out easily. “Otherwise, it makes no sense”, he added but refused to show the license.

Availability of life-jackets is a special story. Most of vessels able to carry 11 passengers had only 5 life-jackets including 2 or three child-size ones.  They insisted that is sufficient according to the regulations. “If you call in advance we will ensure the required number of child-size life-jackets”, they used to say.

As for the number of children in the group (12 children and one adult), almost all carriers suggested dividing them between two boats to avoid overweight. No wonder as the number of seats is limited. The tickets for a one-hour guided tour is RUB 400 - 700 for adults and RUB 250–350 for children.

Sea tours in Balaklava

The Balaklava embankment is shorter than that of Sevastopol but the number of ships there is much higher. In the area with tables and sunshades the tourists can see the photos of the offered voyage and discuss the terms.

At the very first table the license was provided that covers three vessels for 10-11 passengers (it is really in the Rostransnadzor’ Register). According to Larisa Chibisova, wife of the ship owner, all those at the tables are working officially, though there are many young men running all around an arranging trips without any permits. When asked about the number of carriers working off the books she said it can be at least 60% in Balaklava, adding that their share in Sevastopol is much smaller due to stricter rules.

The experiment brought up many questions. Speaking about the problem is not enough. How can the situation be improved? IAA PortNews addressed those questions to Aleksandr Andrusenko, head of the Southern Sea/Inland Supervision Department of the Federal Agency for Transport Supervision (Rostransnadzor’s SSISD).

- Mr Andrusenko! Is that really difficult to obtain a license? If not, why are there so many violations? What do you undertake to improve the situation?

- It should be noted that the licenses are to be obtained not by ship masters but by legal entities or private entrepreneurs who usually employ 2-3 persons for that purpose. One of them is a hooker-in, another one takes the wheel. Therefore, it is not absolutely right to say that only three persons in your experiment are involved in legal activities.

Providing licenses upon the first demand of the client is a must everywhere: at berths and in shops, as well as providing a receipt….

Yes, there are facts of working without licenses. Revealing such violations is the responsibility of transport police and prosecutor’s office… .

The materials are then forwarded to us for consideration and taking the administrative measures.

The penalty alone cannot solve the problem. We have gone through it again.

Unwillingness of some entrepreneurs to obtain licenses is, on the one hand, explained by their fear of administrative barriers, paper chase and the officials. On the other hand, there is a practice of relying on a bit of luck.

…Our key task today is to eliminate those stereotypes. We apply all available resources for that purpose.

Rostov has just hosted public hearings attended by representatives of the business community, authorities and everybody interested in new laws as well as those eager to work legally.

In March 2017, you have published our article “Licensing without barriers”. According to those who had read the article say they now see the licensing in a different light.

By the way, some figures will clarify the situation.

In 2015 – 2016, SSISD issued 162 licenses for passenger transportation including 132 licenses for Crimean entrepreneurs.

Apart from Crimea were cover 6 other constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Our authority includes 16 ports, more than 3,000 km of inland water ways, Black Sea coast and the Krasnodar region resorts. So, the number of licenses issued for Crimea is 4 times as much as in other six entities!

What does that mean?

Crimea residents are free from the red tape and bureaucracy stereotypes. They just work in new legislative realities. I am speaking about licensed entrepreneurs. The number of others is decreasing and I know that firsthand.

- What should be done with overweight? What about not giving licenses for small size vessels that can technically be used for transportation of more people than the declared 12 passengers?

- When applying for a license, entrepreneurs provide vessels’ certificate issued by Harbour Master. The document contains information about passenger capacity 11+1 (ship master). Even if there is a technical possibility for more passengers we cannot reject such documents.

You know, we have no right to suspect anybody. It is a so called presumption of innocence. It is as if traffic police would not issue vehicle certificate for cars able to move with a speed not allowed at our roads.

However, I fully agree with you as regards formal attitude of some license holders to the procedure and to the licensed activity. We reveal, investigate and stop the facts you mentioned.

In August we took part in inspections initiated by Transport Prosecutor’s Office of Sochi. The findings of the above inspections are under consideration. Operation of some vessels has been banned and the violators will fall under sanctions. That will mean losses for such ‘businessmen’.

I would emphasize … that reaction to such unlawful conduct will follow immediately. … The risk and consequences of such business is much higher as compared with the lost profit.

By no means I decline my or my subordinates’ responsibility for ensuring safety and administration of justice at transport, being open for a productive dialogue and initiatives, but the request “Can I have a look at you license” should be more frequent, from all those who care about their life and health.

Next public hearing will be held on 25 October in Novorossiysk.

- Thank you.

Aleksandr Alikin