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>> The new silk road. more.

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>> Changing picture on the Far East – WCSA trade lane. more.

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>> Non alliance shipping lines.more.

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The New Silk Road:  the impact on Europe-China transport patterns

The New Silk Road rail freight services between western China and Europe are set to challenge the existing dominance of air freight for high value goods and container shipping for lower value commodities on this transport corridor.  MDS Transmodal and Steer Davies Gleave’s report for the European Parliament on The new Silk Road – opportunities and challenges for EU transport was published recently by the European Parliament and MDST’s key role in the study was to examine the comparative economics of rail, air and container shipping on the world’s most important trade route.

The study estimated the extent to which cargo travelling by sea or air in 2016 might in the future transfer to rail as a result of new and improved rail services between the Far East and Western Europe.   The analysis was based on the following assumptions in relation to service quality levels and comparative freight rates.

Comparative levels of service and freight rates between the Far East and Europe

Mode

Effective transit time

Unit transported

Freight rate

Air

5 days

Kilogramme

40ft container/2 TEU

€2

€20,000

Sea

35 days

40ft container/2 TEU

€2,000

Rail

16 days

40ft container/2 TEU

€4,250

 

The analysis also took into account the value of different commodities that are traded between the Far East and Western Europe, on the basis that some higher value commodities currently transported by sea could switch to rail to reduce the inventory cost; at the same time the shippers of some high value commodities currently transported by air could reduce their transport costs by switching to the new Silk Road rail services.

Of the forecast two-way sea freight of 40 million TEU (including return empty containers) in 2040, around 2.5 million TEU could transfer to rail, while a further 0.5 million TEU could be diverted from air.  By 2040, rail could therefore carry 3 million TEUs of freight between the Far East and Europe, primarily on the corridor through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus transporting relatively high value freight to northern Europe.  With shipping times from the Far East to the North Sea up to one week longer than to the Mediterranean,  rail  would  be  most  attractive  for  transport  to  Europe  north of the Alps, including to EU Member States bordering the North Sea and Baltic Sea.  The most  urgent  freight  carried  by  air  is  likely  to  continue  to  be transported to a range  of  EU airports, either on dedicated freighter aircraft or in the holds of passenger aircraft.

Given the potential for the new Silk Road rail freight services, it should not be a great surprise that the main operator on the route - UTLC ERA, a joint stock company formed by Russian, Belarus and Kazakh railways - has announced that its traffic volumes have increased by 30% in Q1 of 2018 to reach 40,300 TEU.  Eastbound traffic volumes have increased by no less than 43% as European manufacturers begin to make greater use of the services.