China Ships More Goods Via Russian, Central Asian Land Routes As Sea Costs Rise


Chinese companies have been sending more goods by rail through Russia and Central Asia in recent months as the cost of shipping by sea increases.

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.

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The advantages of rail transport

With its environmental, social and economic advantages, rail is a fitting response to the challenges of mass passenger and freight mobility. It plays a major role in the decarbonisation of the economy and thus contributes to the preservation of the planet.

Transport and environment report 2020: Train or plane?
Traveling by plane, train or automobile: the most environmentally sound choice may not always be clear. The report assesses the value of travel by train and plane. Rail travel is the best and most sensible mode of travel, apart from walking or cycling.
Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)