Martin Koubek: CL Europort in Małaszewicze is one of the facilities that most efficiently handles container transhipment

2024/04/16 at 5:59 PM

Due to disruptions to free navigation in the Red Sea, the New Silk Road railway has again become more interesting to customers as a stable transport alternative. We hope that it will also be popular when maritime services return to traditional routes, says Martin Koubek, Director for Silk Road & CIS, Member of the Board at CL Europort Sp. z o. o., a part of Metrans Group.


How do you assess the situation in moving goods by rail along the New Silk Road? Last year, there was a sharp decline in the number of trains sent from China to Europe, which was the result of, among other things, a decline in sea freight rates and uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine. And what has changed this year?

Since the end of 2023, we have been observing the opposite situation, i.e. an increase in sea freight rates to Europe and an extension of transit times due to disruptions in shipping in the Red Sea. Due to this situation, the New Silk Road has again become more interesting for customers as an alternative. You can see that this route is once again a part of regular transport connections from China to Europe and backward, as maritime transport on this route continues to experience disruptions. We hope that customers will see that the Silk Road is a reliable, one of the possible transport solutions and that it will also be popular when maritime services return to traditional routes.

How do disruptions in maritime transport through the Suez Canal affect transport services operated by Metrans and CL Europort Małaszewicze?

In general, as we have heard from customers, ocean freight rates have increased and some customers logically use other port-to-port combinations due to longer transit times. Therefore, in some cases, we may witness a redirection of cargo flows, for instance, from south to north. The same happens in the case of the New Silk Road. As I mentioned, for customers who expect stable transit times, the New Silk Road is a good solution. And our terminal in Małaszewicze is ready to handle the increased volume.

It is worth emphasising that CL Europort, like all Metrans companies, is integrated with the group IT system – MIS, which ensures efficient and reliable cargo handling. Therefore, the terminal in Małaszewicze is currently one of the facilities that most efficiently handles container transhipment and, as a terminal-hub, it enables railway connections with the entire Metrans network.

What has changed in formal and legal terms in the handling of railway services, especially on the Belarusian-Polish border?

We could have noticed that due to the European Union’s economic sanctions package against Russia, the flow of goods eastwards, to China, had decreased. Partially, due to the difficult assessment of sanctioned cargo in transit through Russia. Therefore, some customers avoid this connection just in case and look for other, easier solutions, for instance, by using our service to Istanbul.

What is the biggest challenge for intermodal rail transport to accelerate its development?

As a neutral intermodal operator and railway carrier, we run the longest possible trains. Therefore, when the infrastructure in the EU is ready to handle 740-metre-long trains, it will enable us to be more efficient, especially more competitive compared to truck transport. In the westward direction from Małaszewicze (to the German border), train lengths are already at a good level, we also see improvement in the southward direction (border with Czechia).

In Małaszewicze itself, investments are needed in railway infrastructure where long freight trains could wait, because a certain limitation is that when trains from China are late, railway companies have to look for a place to keep the trains at a certain distance from this sensitive location. We hope that the planned and expected investments in the area of the Małaszewicze junction will help it remain the most important and most efficient transport solution within the New Silk Road.

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