CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero LUGLIO 2020
CHINA-EUROPE RAIL FREIGHT HITS THE BUFFERS AS ROCKETING
Record-breaking volumes have caused congestion and lengthy
delays on China-Europe rail freight services.
According to Norman Global Logistics (NGL), June and July have
been "extremely busy" for Silk Road rail services, putting
pressure on infrastructure and increasing journey times.
Rob Foster, NGL's business development manager for central and
north China, said: "Major congestion is taking place on most
services at the China-Kazakhstan border [Alashankou and Khorgos]
which has caused a huge bottleneck."
Indeed, delays at the Khorgos transhipment hub, where containers
must be transloaded onto wide-gauge wagons for the journey through
central Asia, have created a ripple effect, impacting terminals in
China and Europe.
NGL said Xian, Wuhan, Ganzhou and Xiamen had stopped accepting
any new orders to clear the backlogs, expected to last until the end
of this week, while Yiwu and Chengdu have resorted to halving
departures to twice a week. Zhengzhou diverted all trains bound for
Liege, Munich, and Milan to Erenhot, causing an three-to-five-day
"In some locations like Wuhan, for example, we have
experienced delays in shipments not departing for up to two or three
weeks later than expected due to the bottleneck at the border,"
Mr Foster told The Loadstar.
He added: "The carriers have been reluctant to release
trains in order not to have them detained at the border. Once a
container is delayed people are looking for some sort of refund on
the cost of the freight, which the carriers really do not want to
"Another challenge is that tracking on Silk Road is a long
way behind air and ocean, and requires a lot of manual work to track
down information, unless you have loaded your GSP system into the
NGL noted the congestion has spread to the Malaszewicze border
in Poland, with container transloading containers now taking around
"two days longer than usual."
Congestion at Malaszewicze - another gauge-change hotspot - has
been going on for years, with infrastructure upgrades failing to
keep up with volumes, forwarders say.
Double-digit increases have not been uncommon for China-Europe
rail services in recent years, but the coronavirus pandemic and
subsequent capacity crunch in air and ocean have sent volumes
through the roof since March, once China's lockdown was mostly over.
According to China Railway, there were 5,122 China-Europe
freight trains in the first half, up 36% year on year. Last month
alone there were 1,169 trains, another new record.
Khorgos was the busiest border-crossing of all the Silk Road
routes from China, handling 2,000 trains in the first half, a 48%
increase over 2019.
Eastbound services have also undergone significant expansion
this year, with forwarders launching block train services from
Germany to cope with demand. However, a continued imbalance between
eastbound and westbound trains has been raised as a major cause of
the current congestion, since the mismatch in trade flows creates a
shortage of wagons in China.."
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