Large increase in container transport by rail from China to Europe in 1Q 2024

2024/04/12 at 4:43 PM

In the first quarter of 2024, container transport from China to Europe via Russia increased by 44 per cent compared to last year. Russian Railways (RZD) has also forecast an increase in transport on this intermodal route by 30-40 per cent in the second quarter.

Source: Windmemories Wikimedia Commons

Since last December, there has been a visible increase in the interest of logistics operators in sending goods from China to Europe via land rail routes. This was caused by shipping problems in the Black Sea and an increase in maritime transport costs. Moving freight by train from China also ensures better transit time, as the need to circumnavigate Africa means that the voyage of a container ship from the Far East is extended by 5-7 days. As a result, the railway on the New Silk Road currently offers 3-5 times shorter transit time, depending on the specific route.

“This year, a certain change in trends can be observed. We are really seeing an increase in container transit between China and Europe. In the first quarter, it increased by 44 per cent compared to the same period of the last year; i.e. we transported almost 90,000 TEU. The second trend is transit between Belarus and China. I can say that it increased by 68 per cent compared to the same period last year, and in total, we transported about 135,000 TEU on this route,” said Alexei Shilo, the deputy general director of Russian Railways.

Stable growth on the New Silk Road

According to the Chinese Railways, in January and February, 2,928 trains departed from China westwards, carrying 317,000 containers, which means an increase of 10 per cent compared to last year. However, it must be remembered that the Chinese do not distinguish between trains going to Russia and trains going to the European Union and treat all these transports as “trains to Europe”. Throughout last year, 1.9 million containers were moved from China westwards on the New Silk Road railway.

In total, since the launch of inter-Eurasian transport in 2011 as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, over 85,000 journeys have taken place on this route, which departed from 120 cities in China to 219 destinations in 25 European countries. The number of transported types of freight increased from 53 when the New Silk Road railway was launched to over 50,000 products currently.

Transport between China and the European Union had lost popularity after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Following this aggression, the European Union imposed economic sanctions on Russia and Belarus, and some logistics operators decided to withdraw from the Russian market. Currently, the volume of freight moved on the New Silk Road has returned to the level before the full-scale war in Ukraine.

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