Turkish truckers are being pounded with high fuel surcharges in Iran, and this is costing Turkey an extra ۵۶ million euros every year, according to the business interest group representing truckers in İstanbul.
Ruhi Engin Özmen, chairman of the board of directors at the International Road Transport Union (UND), told Today's Zaman that Iran imposes indirect transit fees by charging Turkish drivers a surcharge on the fuel in their vehicles at border exits. The fees are much higher than those imposed by Turkey on Iranian truckers. “Iran continues to impose this illegal tax even though there is no such provision in bilateral trade agreements signed with Iran including the Joint Economic Commission (KEK) protocol,” Özmen said.
“This creates unfair competition, and we're left to foot the extra expenses even when we just use Iran as a transit country,” he said, adding that Iran has been avoiding meetings with Turkish officials to discuss the issue.
UND officials note that although vehicles with Iranian license plates are not charged excessive fees in Turkey, Iran has not warmed to the idea of halting their own practice of imposing high fees. According to data provided to Today’s Zaman, Iran collected more than ۵۶ million euros in tax fuel surcharges from Turkish transporters in ۲۰۱۱. The UND says its grievances regarding the indirect transit fees have never been addressed by Iranian authorities.
Iranian officials say fuel prices in Iran are lower than in Turkey due to state subsidies so the country charges higher taxes to Turkish truckers to make up the difference in price. Lower fuel prices in Iran, however, do not explain the current practice of charging an extra ۰.۸۰ euros to Turkish drivers when in ۲۰۱۰ the Iranian government eliminated subsidies for the oil sector. The difference between fuel prices dropped to ۰.۵۴ euros. However, Iranian authorities have refrained from taking the new figure as a basis when calculating the extra payment that Turkish transporters have to make.
Pointing out that the Iranian authorities are not willing to negotiate to revise the extra payments that they demand from Turkish truckers, UND officials underlined that Iran insists on taking the previous figure of ۰.۸۰ euros as a basis and in turn has doubled its unfair gains for the last ۱۴ months. By using the outdated figure, Iran obtained an extra ۲۱ million euros in unfair gains in ۲۰۱۱.
“With the efforts of the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade [DTM] and the Transportation Ministry in ۲۰۰۹, Iran decreased the fuel consumption cost that it used for calculating the extra cost that Turkish transporters had to pay from ۰.۴۲ euros per liter to ۰.۳۲ euros per liter, which brought a ۲۲ percent savings Turkish transporters,” Özmen said.
“Then in ۲۰۱۰, the difference in tax-free fuel prices between Turkey and Iran was determined to be ۰.۸۰ euros per liter. However, in December ۲۰۱۰, Iran removed the subsidies for the oil sector, and the price of a liter of fuel increased from ۰.۰۴ euros to ۰.۳۵ euros in Iran. Iran was expected to revise the formula but instead decided to maintain the current formula.”
UND officials point out that Iran is a transit country for Turkish transporters whose final destinations are usually Azerbaijan or Central Asian countries and that Iran’s unfair practice undermines Turkey’s competitiveness in the region. The UND says many Turkish truckers decide to transfer their cargo to vehicles with Iranian license plates in Bazargan in Iran so they do not have to pay the extra costs.
UND officials also state that although Iran provides a fuel ration card which allows Turkish truckers to buy a liter of fuel for ۰.۱۵ euros up to a limit of ۷۰۰ liters in Iran, there are many problems concerning the implementation of the fuel card system. “After the Iranian government cut the subsidies for the oil sector and the price of a liter of fuel increased considerably in Iran, the Iranian government provided a fuel card at the customs gate which allows foreign drivers to buy up to ۷۰۰ liters of fuel at a discounted price,” Özmen explained. “However, when the cards were submitted to the gas stations they had a zero balance, and our citizens have to pay higher prices.” Adding insult to injury, the UND learned that Iran has increased the price of a liter of fuel from ۰.۱۵ euros to ۰.۳۵ euros for foreign vehicles on these fuel cards without notifying Turkish officials. The UND officials noted that the Iranian government should immediately revise the formula that is used for calculating the extra payment that Turkish transporters have to make.
In ۲۰۱۰ there were ۲۳,۸۷۱ direct shipments between Turkey and Iran, and the annual cost of Iran’s extra charges for Turkish transporters was ۱۰.۸ million euros. Turkish truckers made ۴۳,۱۶۱ transit shipments via Iran in the same year, and the loss to them was ۴۵ million euros, which brings the total cost to ۵۶ million euros. “Currently a shipment between Turkey and Iran costs ۴۵۱ euros, and a transit shipment via Iran costs ۱,۰۵۰ euros. However, if Iran takes ۰.۵۴ euros as the base cost, the cost would drop by ۱۴۷ euros and ۷۰۸ euros, respectively, and we would save ۲۱ million euros,” Özmen explained. The UND wants Iran to apply the principle of reciprocity and seal the fuel tank caps for vehicles that pass in transit through Iran. If the fuel tanks are sealed, then Iran cannot use the excuse of a difference in fuel prices to charge Turkish truckers costs. While Turkey seals fuel tank caps of vehicles with Iranian license plates in transit and does not charge any tax, Iran continues to impose heavy tolls on Turkish transit truckers and fails to respond to the demands of Turkish transporters.