This is more than just a train: another German port joins New Silk Road

2021/07/22 at 9:43 AM

Container trains running between China and the EU provide reliable connectivity not only for hinterland terminals. More and more maritime facilities in Europe have been launching new intermodal links to Asia. Among the latest developments is JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, Germany’s only deep-water port that has recently handled its first train from China and is interested in attracting Chinese investments.

More than a dozen years ago, in October 2008, the first container train from China, namely from Xiangtan, arrived at the Port of Hamburg. This event marked a milestone for the New Silk Road and the German port. For the former, the Xiangtan – Hamburg train was remarkable as it paved the way for the rail renaissance in moving freight between the different corners of Eurasia and established the Trans-Eurasian Land Bridge, the most popular route for delivering containers from China to Europe. For the latter, i.e. for the Port of Hamburg, the mentioned train was additional evidence that ports are able to handle not only container ships. Now the container trains from China delivers at the German largest port 107,000 standard containers annually (the 2020 data).

JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, source: JadeWeserPort Marketing

It is no surprise that JadeWeserPort, the German youngest and the country’s single deep-water port, intends to achieve the same success. To this end, the harbour has recently joined the New Silk Road and has got its first long-haul train service. Last week, on 13 July, the first container train from China arrived in Wilhelmshaven. In 18 days, it delivered a container volume of around 100 TEU loaded with household appliances as well as textiles and electrical goods from the city of Hefei in Anhui Province to Lower Saxony. “With this connection, Lower Saxony shows that our rail infrastructure can act as a component of the New Silk Road,” said Stephan Weil, the Minister President of Lower Saxony, at the meeting ceremony in the port.

Long-term cooperation

The Hefei – Wilhelmshaven container train was launched within the intensification of cooperation between Anhui Province and Lower Saxony that has been lasting for over 35 years. To start a new intermodal service, JadeWeserPorts Marketing, the company that is responsible for the development of the port, concluded two agreements with the Chinese partners: one with Hefei International Land Port (HILP), another with China Logistics and the Anhui Provincial Port & Shipping Group.

First container train from Hefei arrives at JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven, source: Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Hamburg

It is HILP, the state-owned port operating company that is focused on the block trains to Central Europe and Central Asia, that became the operator of the new train connection. Several divisions of DB Cargo including DB Cargo Eurasia, DB Cargo Polska and DB Cargo Russia also participate in organising the new service. “This is more than just a train, this is an initiative that is supposed to bring a lot of freight here,” said Andreas Bullwinkel, managing director at JadeWeserPorts Marketing.

China Logistics – Wilhelmshaven Hub

Besides launching the container trains, the Chinese companies are highly interested in investing in the development of JadeWeserPort. For instance, China Logistics, a major Chinese logistics provider with 58 hubs in the home market, intends to construct in the German port its storage facility, which is valued at around 100 million euros. It will be branded as the China Logistics – Wilhelmshaven Hub. The logistics centre will be dedicated to handling Chinese goods and will consist of two buildings: one with 40,000 square metres of hall space plus 110,000 square metres of open storage area, another with 20,000 square metres of hall space. China Logistics plans to start the construction of its hub in Wilhelmshaven later this year. The Chinese company has already made the first step in this direction. In February 2020 it signed the 99-year leasehold contract for 20 hectares in the freight village of JadeWeserPort.

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