China sent more than 2,000 freight trains to Europe during the first two months of 2021, double the rate a year earlier when the coronavirus first hit, the Financial Times reported. An equipment manufacturer in the Yiwu in eastern China told the paper that prices for sea transport have «skyrocketed» since last year as the coronavirus spurred demand in Europe for electronics and other home appliances. Meanwhile, sea transportation times have doubled, the manufacturer said. An agent providing export services in Shenzhen said that between 20 and 30 percent of her clients had switched from sea to rail.
Sea transport has become the focus of international attention after a ship became stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking all traffic. The Suez Canal offers the shortest route by sea from Asia to Europe. Despite the jump in the use of rail transport, it still accounts for a small fraction of total goods exported from China to Europe. And it may not last. The Shenzhen agent said she expected clients to return to shipping routes when the pandemic eased.