Intermodal transit traffic on overland routes in Asia and Europe almost tripled last year, according to figures from intermodal operator Transcontainer.
Asia-Europe volumes moving on the Transcontainer fleet climbed from 34,000 20-foot-equivalent units in 2011 to 90,000 TEUs last year, as the overall market for transits via Russia’s network reached 228,000 TEUs.
Key contributors to growth were shipments from Europe to Central Asia and between the Far East and Europe, lanes that a number of forwarders are targeting with new services, according to Andrey Zhemchugov, Transcontainer’s director for capital markets and investor relations.
“The main cargo items are consumer goods, machinery and equipment,” he said. “There is also certain container flows from Europe to China, predominantly related to auto components and other equipment. But potential transit volumes to be transported from Europe to China are double compared to westward transit routes.”
Average door-to-door transit times from China to Europe have fallen to around 20 days, depending on origin and destination, in part because of the elimination of border checks following the 2011 customs union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, Zhemchugov said.
“Transcontainer also promotes a number of initiatives in cooperation with the Russian Custom Service, including electronic pre-declaration in the cross-border terminal in Zabaikalsk on the Russian-Chinese border,” he added.
According to Zhemchugov, rail’s competitiveness versus ocean is highly dependent on point of origin and destination. “For example, transportation from eastern China to western Europe is predominantly seaborne, as low transportation costs overweigh any possible time savings, especially under current circumstances in the sea shipping market,” he said. “The situation changes if a container to be transported from central and western China to eastern or central Europe. In that case, rail transportation is not only faster — about 20 days by rail compared to circa 50 days by sea — but also much more competitive in terms of pricing, especially given value of time, if valuable goods are transported.
“For example,” Zhemchugov said, “the cost of container transportation form Chongqing to Moscow is almost equal for rail and sea, but rail is two times faster.”
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