Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Europe to Asia Rail Freight Link Begins Operation

Antwerp to Chongqing Service First Run Commences
Shipping News Feature

BELGIUM / CHINA – A new trans-continental rail freight route began operations on Monday when the first train left the Port of Antwerp in Belgium on route to the city of Chongqing in Western China.

The new route will run one train a day initially on the 10,000-mile trip which will at first take 20-25 days but is hoped to soon be accomplished in 15-20 days, making it potentially a quicker route between Europe and China than deep sea shipping, with the added advantage that freight will be delivered a thousand miles inland from Shanghai.

In essence the route combines offerings by three intermodal operators with additional support supplied by the Development Authority of the Province of Antwerp (POM Antwerp), the Antwerp Port Authority and the Belgian Administration of Customs & Excise.

Swiss-intermodal operator Hupac offers a daily service from the port of Antwerp to Poland, where the route links further with Russia and China via the Ukraine and Mongolia through its partners Russkaya Troyka and Eurasia Good Transport.

The new service will also offer the ability to link into the various cities on route and their associated intermodal freight networks, as well as exploiting Antwerp’s position as a premier European port.

“As second European port, the Port of Antwerp positions itself as the hub for Europe,” said Marc Van Peel, President Antwerp Port Authority, who added that: “The maritime companies from the port have nothing to fear. After all, the rail connection will be complementary to maritime flows and in this way even generate extra maritime traffic.”

This echoes the sentiments of Liao Qingxuan, Deputy Secretary-General of the Chongqing municipal government, who said during a visit to Antwerp that the freight rail link between Antwerp and Chongqing is significant in promoting China's western development and changing the structure of China's logistics sector.

One of the most populace regions on Earth, Chongqing now boasts a rail freight terminal, opened in 2009, that is capable of handling 1.65 million TEU per annum.

The rail connection also means a big boost for the awareness of Antwerp in Chongqing and China and the payoff for several year’s hard work by the city’s officials, who last year appointed a permanent economic representative to Chongqing.

Koen Helsen, President of POM Antwerp and Vice-Governor for Economy said: “Our region benefits from this extra reputation in many ways. Not only can we reinforce our position as a top logistics region and world harbour, we also draw the attention of Chinese companies with European ambitions. Within a foreseeable time we can expect to welcome sales offices and distribution centres from well known Chinese brands and companies to our region.”