Turkey turns into transit hub for Russian imports, warehouses overflow

Warehouses at ports in Turkey are jammed full with goods heading for Russia, the Dünya newspaper reported on Thursday citing people in the logistics industry.

Turkey has become the transit hub for Russia’s imports after sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, Dünya said.

Cargoes arriving from countries around the world are unloaded at Turkish ports and transferred to Turkish ships heading for Russia after “embargo screening,” the newspaper said. The goods are sent on without being registered as imports to Turkey, it said.

Some Russian firms are opening offices in Turkey and are entering partnerships to carry out the trade. Russian businessmen are buying real estate and establishing a local company in order to obtain Turkish citizenship, and then send the products to Russia from the European Union and Far East via their new office address in Turkey, Dünya reported.

Turkey, a NATO member, has developed close political and economic relations with Russia over the past five years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin more often than any other world leader, much to the chagrin of Turkey’s traditional Western allies, who see their alliance as potentially threatening NATO’s cohesion and perhaps undermining a sanctions regime on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The shipments are often made by Turkish container companies, mostly by sea, because global giants such as Maersk, Hapag Lloyd and Hamburg Süd have stopped transporting goods to Russia. Routes via land, air and rail are also used, Dünya said.

“I was in (the southern port of) Mersin last week. Due to the loads coming from all over the world and to be transferred to Russia, the warehouses in Mersin are full to the brim,” said Mehmet Serkan Erdem, Turkey General Manager of Rif Line. “In some instances, these cargoes are sent to Russia with the ships of Turkish ship owners, and in others many Russian trucks are coming to Turkey to transport these goods.”

Erdem said many EU companies have already been buying goods from countries such as China and Indonesia and sending them to Russia via Turkey.

“For example, German Bosch's air conditioners are produced in Thailand, from there they were sent to the Russian market,” he said. “Now, with big companies such as Maersk and Hapag Lloyd cancelling their routes to Russia, all these containers come to Istanbul, Izmir or Mersin. From here, transfers are made via (companies) Medkon, Akkon, Arkas and Fesco and transferred to the Russian port of Novorossiysk.”

Medkon Shipping, one of Turkey’s largest ship owners, has started a new route to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk from Mersin, Istanbul and Izmir in recent weeks, Dünya said. Medkon General Manager Mahmut Işık said his company was very sensitive about sanctions and embargoes placed on Russia, checking documentation and ensuring that the consignor and consignee are not included in the punitive measures.

“For us, it is enough that the sender, the receiver and the cargo are not covered by the embargo,” he said. “However, even if there is even the slightest question mark, we definitely do not carry out this transportation.”

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