Car buyers hope to be home for New Year

The Russian city of Vladivostok is dealing with a major traffic jam. Some 12,000 cars from Japan are stuck because their new owners are unable to receive clearance from customs.

There are no spare places left in Vladivostok's docks. They've all been taken up by cars coming in from Japan and while temporary storage facilities are overflowing, so are hotels in the city.

Those who had hoped they could quickly import a car into Russia and within days take it to one of the cites in the Primorsky region are at a loss.

“I don't know what to do. I'm running out of money. I need somewhere to stay and food to eat. I want to greet the New Year at home with my family, near the tree with a glass of champagne. Instead, I'll be doing it somewhere on the road, and that's the best-case scenario,” says Kemerovo resident Aleksandr Petrovtsev.

The hold-up is proving problematic for this region, where Japanese cars make up the majority of the vehicles driven. The problem is that  the main customs checkpoints have run out of forms to register vehicles. The last one was given out on December 10 and, without proper registration, a car isn't allowed on the road.

“We did everything we needed to from our side. We sent away all the requests for registration in good time. But unfortunately, they were not completed on time,” says Andrey Shapovalov, Deputy Head of Vladivostok Transport Customs post.

Car dealers come to the customs post every day, demanding their long-awaited documents. For all of them, this is financially damaging. For each person, tens of cars are waiting in storage facilities.

“I have a person who came to pick up 12 cars and with him are 12 drivers. That's 12 people he has to put up in a hotel, who need to be fed, who have families, who want to be home for New Year's Eve – and they might not make it in time,” says car dealer Viktor Merke.

New registration forms are expected to come in by December 26. Those stranded there, however, say that if the documents don't come through, they'll hold a massive strike. Already they've written a statement to the local prosecutor’s office, demanding it finds and punishes those who are guilty for the hold-up.