From China to Scandinavia via Greece? Yes, it’s possible also by rail

Can the Nordic countries connect via the Silk Road with China with Greece as a transit point? This is possible, says Nordicon, a consolidation company that runs a new multimodal service between Yantian, China and Scandinavia via the port of Piraeus in Greece.

“The shipping companies predict a continued pressure situation on the continent for the rest of 2022 in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. The average transit time for traditional sea freight is currently around 55-60 days from China to Denmark,” explained Nordicon. The company developed the ocean-rail transport solution to deal with congested European ports and the significantly disrupted traditional Silk Road routes.

Nordicon’s sea/rail multimodal solution. Source: Nordic-on.com

20 days faster

Many options are on the table as companies look for Silk Road alternatives. Besides the Middle Corridor, which has been heavily used during the last couple of months, freight forwarders and shipping companies have come up with ocean-rail solutions that can prove more efficient. One of them is DSV, which links Southeastern Asian ports with the port of Algeciras in Spain and then transports cargo in the European hinterland by rail.

In general, the Mediterranean ports like Trieste and Piraeus have been included in the discourse concerning the efficient diversification of Silk Road routes. Nordicon proved with its multimodal transport solution that such ports could function as gateway hubs and provide fast Asia-Europe connections without excluding rail.

Nordicon offers a weekly trip between Yantian in China and the port of Piraeus in Greece. Cargo transported by sea is transhipped on trains in Piraeus and continues its journey via the Balkans and Central Europe all the way up North to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In fact, this proves to be a way better solution than sea shipping to Northern European ports since the transit time is approximately 20 days less.

A solution already tested

However, this is not the first implementation of such a solution. Specifically, the port of Piraeus has functioned for a long time in this way, and rail companies have utilised it as a gateway for Asian cargo entering Europe. For instance, the Land Sea Express service offered by Ocean Rail Logistics, COSCO’s rail subsidiary company in Greece, works precisely on this principle.

Ocean Rail Logistics’ Land-Sea Express. Source: Ocean Rail Logistics.

The company bundles cargo arriving from Asia at the port of Piraeus via the Suez Canal and then forwards it by rail to Central Europe using the Corridor X via the Balkans. Piraeus has a competitive location in this sense and is a rapidly growing hub. As Dionysis Boulantzas, investment and development manager at Ocean Rail Logistics, commented in a past interview with RailFreight.com, “electronics corporate giants, among others, are choosing Piraeus as an entry point for Europe and as a logistics centre for warehousing and distribution to all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. From our experience, since 2014, we see an upwards trajectory.”

Finally, Austria-based Rail Cargo Group also acknowledges that the port of Piraeus and its connection to the international railway network is decisive for southeastern Europe’s forwarding and rail sector. Greece is part of RCG’s TransFER network, and the company has established a joint venture in the country with the logistics provider Goldair Cargo since 2018.

RCG aims to become a leading rail logistics provider in Greece, and so far, its services include single wagons, wagon groups and block trains to and from Greece. In 2019, the Austria-based company carried 26,800 TEUs between Piraeus and inland Europe.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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