Stop the fraud and extortionate interest

By: Thomas Ström 5/25/18

Lower the surcharge on the congestion taxes

 

If you have been to Stockholm or Göteborg by your car in recent years, you have surely become aware of the congestion taxes.
If you’re also one of those who have failed to pay the bill on time, you have received a surcharge of 500 SEK per occasion.
Up to now, the state has raised 1.2 billion SEK via these penalties.
If a private company would have done something like this, they would have been convicted of extortionate interest and fraud.

The background is that if you, as a car owner, forget to pay the congestion tax on time, you will receive a surcharge of 500 SEK, even if the original cost is only 10 SEK. That means a penalty of over 5 000 percent. If a private company were to do something similar, they would be forced to close shop. The company would have been classified as fraudulent. But not the state. It only keeps bringing in about 200 extra million a year.

For a long time, both the Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Tax Agency have stated that it is inappropriate to charge a surcharge of several thousand percent. But neither the former nor the current government has done anything about it. They see it as an extra source of income.

In Stockholm, the congestion tax was introduced in 2007 and in Gothenburg in 2013. Before the start in Gothenburg, a government investigation suggested that the rules should be amended. The proposal was based on a first delay fee of 100 SEK and, if not paid, a surcharge of 500 SEK.
But despite the investigation and proposal, not a single minister has done anything about it.

The surcharge is a fairly common topic in parliamentary motions. The latest one was on March 23 this year, when Lars Beckman (M) submitted a written question to the Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson. On April 4, she submitted the following written answer to the Riksdag website:
”The money corresponding to the income from congestion taxes, including revenues from the surcharges, go to important infrastructure initiatives. If the surcharges were to be lowered, it would mean that other money would have to be included in the framework of the congestion tax system. This would entail increased borrowings or increases in the congestion tax itself."

In other words, the state is including the surcharges of the congestion tax in its budget! Does that seem wise?
No, a do-over is imperative. Implement what the government investigation concluded five years ago; first, a reasonable delay fee of approximately 100 SEK and then a surcharge of 500 SEK.
By doing so, a large number of car owners would not feel fooled.

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"Bohuslän - Europe's dump" More people are paying attention to the plastic in the ocean

By: Thomas Ström 5/18/18

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about all the plastic and other trash that spills up on the beaches of Bohuslän, a stretch of beach that is one of the dirtiest in Europe.
Now more people are also starting to pay attention to this.
The magazine GT / Expressen has also brought up this issue in their reporting.

A report team made a visit with the beach cleaners on the island Tjörn, and what they reported is truly horrifying. Along the Bohus coast, the equivalent of five bathtubs full of trash hits the shore every hour. It has gone so far that the beach cleaners, who occasionally think that they are dealing with a hopeless situation, have dubbed one of the bays at Tjörn to "Disaster Bay".

 

Here are some excerpts from the GT / Expressen article:

"Disaster Bay” is located southeast of Tjörn, but it is by no means unique. Every hour, year-round, the equivalent of five full bathtubs of trash hits the shore on the Bohus coast. Most of the litter, about 90 percent, is plastic of various kinds.

In total, approximately 7 000 cubic meters of plastic per year lands on the shores of Bohuslän, according to the foundation ”Håll Sverige Rent”. This makes the Bohus Coast one of the most untidy coastlines in Europe. The problem is so serious that Bohuslän has sometimes been called "Europe's dump".

"We often find dead birds with their stomachs full of plastic. It
makes you really sad, especially when you consider that we humans are
causing this", says beach cleaner Johan Eyssen to GT / Expressen.



Personally, I wonder how long it will take until we humans will suffer
from this. If it continues likes this, it will not be long until one
of Sweden's most popular tourist destinations will be unusable. Who is
going to be willing to swim on the west coast in the future?

Think about that when you throw your garbage into the ocean next time!


You will find the full article on GT / Expressen’s website (Swedish).

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Nowadays you have to make an appointment to get a passport in most parts of the country

By: Thomas Ström 4/18/18

I'm used to being able to run by the police passport offices, fill out a form with my information, take a picture, sign the form and then, a few weeks later, pick up my new passport.
But not anymore. At least not in Gothenburg.

Starting from April 9th, a visit to the police passport office has to go via the Internet. And believe me – you’re going to have to schedule it a long time ahead. When I visited the site on April 9th, the first available time was on May 27th!

This winter I became aware that it was time to renew my passport. Since I'm going on a trip in early June, I went by the police passport office at the end of March. And there was a long queue, let me tell you that.

Once I had managed my way through the crowd and taken a number, I grumpily noticed that there was closer to 200 people before me in line. 
I soon realized that this visit would not take that half hour I’ve grown accustomed to during my last visits when renewing my passport. It was going to take 2-3 hours.

Last week when I made a new attempt, it was the same thing. That’s when I became aware of the fact that from Monday onwards, I was going to have to schedule my visit online.

After talking about this with friends and family, it became clear to me that this has been the case in Stockholm for quite some time, apparently. On the other hand, this I can understand – Stockholm is a major city. But for it to be like this in the rest of the country is really bad, in my opinion. Something has gone very wrong.
It is probably a yet another sign of the police's increased workload and inadequate resources, combined with the growing population.

For my own part, I will not be able to wait for my scheduled appointment. Worst-case scenario would be to arrange for a temporary passport at the airport, but that is very expensive in relation to the single month it is valid.

No, I’m going to make a trip to Uddevalla instead. They still have drop-in.

And after that, the only thing that remains is to accept that everything will be managed via the web in the future.

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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

By: Thomas Ström 4/6/18

A truckload of plastic is emptied in the oceans every minute

 

I enjoy to be at and around the sea, which means that a lot of my free time evolves around boating and vacation homes in the archipelago.
But in recent years, this amazing environment has changed dramatically. The problem spells PLASTIC.
Every spring I see an unbelievable amount of plastic floating around and pouring up on our beaches. And this year it's more than ever.
It's completely insane.

According to the World Wild Fund for Nature, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year. That corresponds to a truck load per minute!
Now is the time to do something about it.
Stop discarding waste and especially plastic in our ocean and our nature.

Aside from the fact that it looks awful, it has a huge negative impact on our nature and environment. If we continue down this road, there will be more plastic than fish in our seas by the year of 2050. That’s in about 30 years.

Some marine animals, such as sea turtles, eat plastic bags in the belief that there are jellyfish. Fish get stuck in stray fish nets and are suffocated to death, while birds get stuck in various plastic articles and die. The list goes on and on.

Over time, I am convinced we will establish that people as well are dying as a consequence of all the plastic in our oceans. This is due to two reasons: microplastics and less oxygen production.

Last autumn, I took part of a survey that showed that 83 percent of the world's drinking water is contaminated with microplastics. At the same time, the fish we eat also ingest these small plastic particles. In their hunt for plankton, they are fooled to eat loads of microplastics in the passing. Nobody knows how plastic will affect humans. But what do you think? How could it be a good thing to ingest plastic? What types of diseases could be developed in our bodies?
I am sure that science will answer these questions within a few years. Unfortunately, I do not think the answers will be positive.

In the long run, there is also a risk that the plastic will contribute to the algae in the oceans dying, which would cause even more complications.

I recently came across a publication by Angela Wulff, Professor of Marine Ecology at the Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences with the University of Gothenburg. It was only after reading it that I realised that nearly half of the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from the sea and its algae.
The question is what happens if the algae die and the oxygen production is cut in half?

No, it is time to stop using plastic bags and disposable items as far as possible.
And if you do have to use them, for God's sake - make sure that they do not end up in our waters! 

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Credible sources claim that Landvetter must invest 500 million SEK for continued development - Now it would have been nice to have Säve Airport

By: Thomas Ström 3/5/18

Recently, I took part of some interesting information, which I then looked into further.
According to very credible sources, Landvetter Airport has hit the limit for its environmental permit.
Going forward, the airport will not be able to accommodate more corporations wishing to open new routes to and from Gothenburg.
In order to expand their capacity, there is talk of an investment of 500 million SEK.
If this is the case, the closure of Säve Airport was a complete disaster, a mad misconduct.

In January 2015, Swedavia took the decision to shut down Säve Airport because it would cost far too much to renovate the old runway. There was talk about 250 million SEK, but afterwards it was found that the cost of a renovation would have been about 50 million SEK.

I have written about this on the blog on several occasions. I think that the shutdown was completely wrong. I believe that Gothenburg and the entire region need two airports; one of which is a city airport.

In fact, it was a major failure and a big waste of money to shut down Säve.
Imagine if they had instead invested in renovating and expanding the airport.
Imagine the benefits, for Gothenburg and the whole region, if the terminal and the parking spaces would have been moved to the big trail. Then we would have had a city airport that could have served as a good addition to Landvetter.

Säve would also have been a very good resource for business in one of Sweden's most interesting regions, especially if you consider businessjet and businessmen who prioritize speed and accessibility.
These decisions have all resulted in a huge waste of money.

If the information I have taken part of is correct, it will not only affect passengers. Freight flights, which have increased much lately, will also be marked by Landvetter's constraints.

In recent years, NTEX has invested heavily in developing our airline operations in addition to our road and sea transports, and now we are the eleventh largest air carrier operator in Sweden. This year, we expect this part of our business to have a turnover of 100 million SEK. If the Landvetter information is correct, I see a risk that we – like other players –may be limited in terms of shipping to and from Western Sweden.

Nevertheless, the whole region's development might be slowed down because Landvetter has hit its limit for its environmental permit.

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I don't believe in thousands of taxi drones

By: Thomas Ström 2/9/18

In order to make the city's urban transport faster and smoother in the future, a plan to build large fleets with taxi drones is in the making. 
I'm skeptical.
My pilot experience tells me that a storm is coming up. 
Hold on to your hats, good people.

Uber plans for a taxi vehicle with seating for four people. The first tests will start in 2020 in Dallas and Los Angeles. But Uber is not alone in having these high-flying plans. Both Chinese and German stakeholders are having the same thoughts.
In China, a start-up company named E-Hang has developed a self-driving drone, which they plan to start testing in Dubai this year.

The drone has space for one person and is equipped with an automatic navigation system for flights along various preprogrammed routes that the passenger can choose from. This drone vehicle has been tested in the outskirts of Canton in southern China.
- We will start mass production of our passenger drones early next year. The plan is to have an automated production line in place during 2018 in order to scale up the production, says E-hang CEO Hu Huazhi to Bloomberg.

But as I was saying; I am highly doubtful that this can actually work out. I do not have any scientific evidence, but based on what I learned during my education and my years as a traffic pilot, it tells me that this will not work if several thousands of vehicles are to share the airspace in and around a large city center.

Mainly, I'm thinking about how much air pressure it takes to lift one airplane. Having multiple vehicles in the air at the same time, the city will surely suffer from stiff breezes or even storms during rush hour. 

That being said, I repeat; hold on to your hats, good people!

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Hundreds of thousands of drivers lacking in Europe

By: Thomas Ström 12/8/17

Great efforts are now required for the recruitment of young people

 

Truck drivers are a major shortage in large parts of Europe.
There’s talk about a shortage between 7 000 – 10 000 drivers in Sweden.
In Poland the corresponding figure is 100 000, and in England and Germany there’s a total of 65 000.
The lack of drivers has now led to the fact that several haulers are forced to renounce missions due to lack of personnel.
In the long run, this could mean that the retail racks will be empty and Internet purchasers may have to wait longer for their deliveries.

The lack of drivers is historic. According to the TYA - the Vocational Training and Working Environment Council, it is expected that 50 000 new truck drivers will be needed in Sweden in the next ten years.

There are several reasons for this problem. Some examples are an ongoing economic boom, a thriving e-commerce and that older drivers have retired ever since a new vocational qualification was introduced a year ago. Many older people then resigned from the "update", which resulted in them not being allowed to continue to drive.

But the biggest reason is that there are too few new drivers educated. And the reason for this is that the high school's transport programs has had difficulties when recruiting new students in recent years. Obviously, something radical has to be done to attract young people to the driver's occupation.

Another reason is that the Employment Service has not been able to train unemployed to become truck drivers in the last year. I will return to that in upcoming blogposts. It concerns the fact that "there has been a problem with the government's procurement of the professional driver training".

Overall, a great effort is required from the whole industry to get more young people interested in the transport industry and the work as a driver.

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Distressing consequences due to the port conflict

By: Thomas Ström 11/13/17

It causes 124 tons more carbon dioxide emissions every day

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the damage the conflict in the port of Gothenburg has had on the Swedish business community.
This weekend I took part of an article in Svenska Dagbladet, where it’s clearly shown that it has also a major negative climate impact.
According to Svenska Dagbladet, the conflict causes 124 tons more carbon dioxide emissions every day!

The reason is that the entrepreneurs no longer trust the port. They are worried that there will be new disturbances and problems with their goods. Therefore, they have stopped shipping all the way to Sweden and Gothenburg. Instead, they choose to reload the goods on trucks in other European ports, such as Hamburg and Rotterdam.
A trip between 65 and 100 miles, just because the industry can no longer trust the port in Gothenburg.

This year, the container volume in the port of Gothenburg has been the lowest for a very long time. The third quarter shows a decrease of 28 percent compared to the same period in 2016.
In a press release, the President of the Gothenburg port, Magnus Kårestedt, says:
– Despite the fact that the container terminal was able to handle the goods that passed, basically without any disruptions during the third quarter, we see a huge decline in volume. It is clear that the industry has not regained confidence in the port's container terminal.

Personally, I think it is very regrettable that the conflict has had such extensive consequences.

The danger we’re facing is that the industry will not dare to invest in Sweden in the future. This is because there are very few companies currently working on large stocks. The transports simply must work and in this context, the port of Gothenburg is very important for the whole country.

An investigation has been appointed to review if the legislation needs to change. However, it will not be ready until May. The question is if that will be too late?

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It turned out as I predicted in 2015:

By: Thomas Ström 11/6/17

Not a single ship has been held accountable for the past three years!
Researchers show that ten percent of shipping companies violate the rules

 

On January 1st, 2015, the rules for sulfur levels in marine fuels for vessels in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea were sharpened from 1 percent to almost 0.
Relating to this, I wrote that the intention was a good but that it would have no effect, since no one had been appointed to check that the requirement is complied and that no one cheats.
Now the first follow-up shows that not a single ship has held accountable in three years!

In a survey by Chalmers researchers, it appears that every tenth ship violates the rules. In the report, the researchers also show a pattern. Several shipping companies seem to be systematically abusing the system. Ships that rarely travel in the affected areas have more frequent emissions. The same applies to ships that are heading out of the zone where the lower emission levels apply.

"We are in a highly competitive market and these are shipping companies we compete with – of course I'm disappointed to learn that it’s so planned out. This was news to me and very surprising,” vice president of Svensk Sjöfart, Pia Berglund, said to Sweden's Radio.

Despite the foul, not a single vessel has been held accountable for its emissions in Sweden during the three years since the change in regulation. One of the reasons is that today's rules are considered too intricate, and that the people assigned to make sure these rules are obeyed already have numerous other tasks on their plates.

In 2014 the Transport Agency presented a proposal for a type of administrative fee like penalties to more easily punish ships with excess emissions, but still nothing has happened.

This automatically becomes a clear signal to the market; you can violate the regulations without any consequences. Therefore, there is nothing indicating that those ten percent of shipping companies will stop cheating.

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Devastating port conflicts paralyze the business community

By: Thomas Ström 10/27/17

In recent weeks, I have taken part of a couple of analyses regarding the consequences of the conflict in the port of Gothenburg.
It is no cheerful reading.
The effects are much bigger than many may think. Large areas of business across the country have been affected.
Personally, I think it's unfortunate that it has gone this far.

First, I read an article with John Wedel, Head of Infrastructure and Logistics at Business Region Gothenburg. A few days later, I heard a radio interview with Johan Woxenius, Professor of Shipping Transport Economics and Logistics at the School of Economics at the University of Gothenburg.
Both have come up with essentially the same thing; APM loses huge sums, within Hamnfyran members are losing their jobs, Gothenburg loses establishments in the long run, business is hit by cost increases and loss of income, the environment is adversely affected, and several traders are forced to shut down or go bankrupt. Simply put, it’s shit.

In a survey conducted by The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, 25 percent of the 478 participating companies said that they were affected by the conflict. More than half of the companies have also been forced to take action in order to reduce the negative effects.
As many as 13 percent say they completely avoid Gothenburg's port.

In addition to trucks and trailers, the train lines to the container terminal at the port have also been adversely affected. One clear example is that SCT Transport announced that it is shutting down its rail terminal in Jönköping as a result of the conflict.

In Wedel's analysis, it is hard to name an exact figure of the amount of additional costs, but it could be several billions within a year. According to John Wedel, it is mainly industrial and trading companies who have suffered the most from the conflict.
Wedel says in an interview in Sjöfartstidningen:
"The industry believes there are a lot of companies that will not be able to push through this, but will be forced to shut down their businesses. And this is during a current boom. No one has made a total compilation of all costs and that’s a shame, because if you could have been able to point out exactly how big the bill is, that would put a lot more pressure on the politics to take care of this.”

Recently, the government appointed an investigation to review the rules of combat actions. The result of this investigation will be presented in late May 2018.
"The business community feels like that i very far away. In the company world, a quick investigation would be done within a month," said John Wedel in Sjöfartstidningen.

According to Wedel, the harbor conflict also has major negative effects on the environment.
"Now you can really see the increase at the E6, just how many trucks that operate the road; there are large volumes, which were previously run through the port. And more often than not, the trucks are not very environmentally friendly,” says John Wedel, who believes that the long-term effects are even more dangerous.

"New companies will not want to establish their businesses here, and some of the big companies with many manufacturing facilities in the world may choose to move their production from Sweden in the long run. For example, Akzo Nobel has said that if the port of Gothenburg does not work, they may have to move their operations. Of course, this also means that the service industries, such as technical consultants and subcontractors, will be affected.”

 

John Wedel says that the conflict costs more than we think while at the same time paralyzing the businesses in the Gothenburg region.
"If we do not resolve the situation in the port, Gothenburg's attractiveness in terms of development, expansion and establishment, will be reduced – much like Gothenburg's current function as a logistics hub. If you are to establish yourself somewhere, there are many things to consider – there must be land, a good academy, research, development centers and so on. However, the port is an incredibly important component of that equation. If we remove it, nothing will separate us from any other city. Overall, the conflict is a conflict with nothing but losers. APM is losing huge amounts of money, within Hamnfyran many members are losing their jobs, Gothenburg might be losing establishments in the long run, the business community is suffering from cost increases and loss of income, the environment suffers, and many small businesses are forced to shut down or go bankrupt. The whole thing is deeply tragic.

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About Ströms blogg

 

Welcome to my blog. Here I will write about transport and logistics and much more ...

If you want to contact me, feel free to send an e-mail to thomas.strom@ntex.se or call me on +46 (0)708-61 42 90.

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