10 September 2021


RailFreight Summit Poland, which was held at the beginning of September, discussed the impact of the disruptions in the maritime supply chain on volumes on the New Silk Road. “Under the influence of the pandemic, ocean freight rates have skyrocketed, and many customers are beginning to realise the potential of rail transport. Despite the difficulties, the China-Europe Express is still running smoothly and is increasingly accepted by the market”, said Martin Koubek Director of Silk Road at Metrans Koubek. “The current situation is that as long as there is space, it is booked, no matter what the cargo is, no matter how expensive the cargo is.” However, he does not expect all these customers to stick around, he acknowledged. “When ocean freight rates return to normal levels, we will not see low-value goods and bulk goods appearing on the railway again. What will remain are high-value goods, the most suitable type of cargo for rail transport on the New Silk Road.”

He also recognised that there are limits to shift more maritime freight to rail. He noted: “Just to transfer the cargo of a ship to the rails, 100-200 trains are needed. Just imagine how many ships there are between China and Europe. The additional capacity required is incalculable. Railways are only suitable for specific cargo; suitable for customers who are willing to spend more money for shorter shipping times.”

Dmitrij Hasenkampf, Sales Director at DB Cargo Eurasia elaborated on the disparity in capacity between the two modes of transport: “Railway only transports 4-5% of Central European cargo. Neither China’s, nor Europe’s infrastructure has enough capacity to transport that much cargo.”  Regardless of capacity, the environmental benefits of rail freight are not enough to replace sea freight either. “Now, the shipping industry is also reducing carbon emissions, so when customers consider environmental aspects, shipping is also an option”, Koubek concluded.

Source: Railfreight