In the year-end business, the Iron Silk Road does not offer the shipping industry a reliable alternative to the tense loading situation ex China for sea and air freight. "Currently, delays of at least 14 days as well as outliers upwards have to be planned for rail connections from China to Hamburg," warns Peter Zink, Business Development Manager Middle East and Greater China at a. hartrodt in Frankfurt. "Customers should allow sufficient time and remain calm," recommends Timo Brodersen from the Operation Rail Division at a. hartrodt in Hamburg. He expects the situation to return to normal after Chinese New Year 2022 at the earliest.
Expanded container block train services
Due to a strong increase in demand, the container block train service between China and the Port of Hamburg was further expanded in the first half of 2021. This includes new connections from Shijiazhuang (Hebei province) or Wuhei (Gansu province), as well as additional providers for Suzhou west of Shanghai and Xi'an. From Zhengzhou (Henan province), goods originating from the important production location Vietnam also reach Hamburg.
China rail service Stars on Rails as an alternative
The bottlenecks on the Iron Silk Road are mostly on the European side. On the main route, there is congestion mainly due to gauge changing at the Brest–Małaszewice border crossing between Belarus and Poland, and also due to construction work on the main transit route in Poland. Brodersen currently advises against the alternative route via the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and onwards by rail ferry to Rostock or Mukran on the island of Ruegen: "This is now also completely overcrowded." Instead, a. hartrodt offers its own LCL containers via Budapest (Hungary) with its China rail service Stars on Rails. "There, we can distribute the goods quickly via extensive EU general cargo networks," says Zink.
Brodersen hopes that construction work on the main route in Poland will be completed in November 2021. But there are new obstacles: "Weather-related influences, especially in the fall/winter, could have a negative impact on the transit times," says Zink.