Live blog: Silk Road Poland Gateway Summit Day 1

Tuesday 20 March is the first day of the Silk Road Summit, Gateway Poland, held in Wroclaw Poland. This is the live blog, broadcasting speakers and reporting the latest news. People who are not able to attend, can follow the summit here.

17.00 The first day of the summit has been concluded. More speakers will present their insights tomorrow.

16.15 The expert panel has started. Klara Paardenkooper: “Why is there nobody from China? We are talking about them, we are not talking with them. We have this ‘fear thing’ in Europe. We don’t know what China  wants, and we are afraid of them. But what China is doing, is creating a business partner. They are building in the countries they want to trade with.

16.15: Juliusz Skurewicz takes the stage. Skurewicz works at the Polish International Freight Forwarders Association. He will be talking about the development of logistics in Poland as a result of the New Silk Road.

“Poland has a long-term investment programme of PLN 66 billion (15.6 billion Euros) for infrastructure modernisation till 2023”, he explains.

“Delays at the Polish border are sometimes very high. This should soon be solved with capacity increase.”

He believes that here should be no competition between rail and road, as they should complement each other.

Erwin Cootjans, CEO of Nunner Logistics, explains why any logistics company doing business in Europe should be in Poland. 

16.05: Professor Richard Griffiths, Emeritus Professor of International Studies at Leiden University and author of the book ‘Revitalising the Silk Road’ is now interviewed by Editor of Nieuwsblad Transport Mels Dees, elaborating how a prevailing focus on the Europe-China northern rail freight route is detracting from the possibilities offered by southern Europe and Asia’s other diverse economies. A print interview with Richard Griffith scan be read here.

“The west is on the defense. We are afraid of the developments made by China. But it is not only China, the west is making large investments too. We are ON the Silk Road, we are there already”, he said.

Jacob Wouters asks how we should learn to look at the Silk Road from an eastern perspective. Griffiths answers that we should not be lecturing China about open competition or interoperability if we in Europe do not practice the same. “We should practice a people-to-people exchange, this is a win-win situation.”

15.55: Round of discussion. De jong and Jacobs point out the ambiguity of the project, as there are many different statistics of the volumes and no clarity about what China really wants to do. As long as there is no clear picture of the investments made, China can not be held politically accountable, they argue.

15.25: Onno de Jong takes the stage. De Jong works as a consultant in Transport, Infrastructure & Mobility at European research company Ecorys. He will now talk about the impact of the New Silk Road on ocean and air freight, current volumes and capacities, and the long-term prospects. An interview with Onno de Jong can be read here.

“Although rail still represents the smallest market share in the transport of freight, it is increasingly becoming an attractive option, more so as rail freight is encouraged by governments in Europe and China. The threat to air cargo is bigger than the impact on maritime transport. Moreover, rail does not always pose the best available option. It depends on the time/value proposition of goods whether land based (rail) transport is a viable alternative”, he explains.

“Goods that are low in value (or better said, the value density is too low) and not time sensitive are often better brought in via ocean freight, such as Christmas decoration. One exactly knows when it is Christmas so planning of production and transport can really be done in advance. Most Christmas decoration is not really expensive so using rail does not make sense.”

“Medicine were typically air cargo, but are now transported in large amounts by train. This is because of the reefer container, which enables the transport of products at a certain temperature. Almost all trains have reffer containers”, he adds.

He presents some figures of volumes handled through Kazakhstan, mostly in westbound direction.

In 2015 China-Europe: 46,000 TEU

In 2016 China-Europe: 104,500 TEU  Europe-China: 73,000 TEU

In 2017 China-Europe: 175,000 according to ERA, 245,000 according to Belarusian Railways

Onno de Jong, consultant in Transport, Infrastructure & Mobility at European research company Ecorys about the million dollar question: what do the numbers indicate?

15.10: Wouter Jacobs takes the stage. Jacobs is researcher at the Erasmus School of Economics.

He talks about the geo-political implications of the Silk Road. Whereas the Chinese government is not directly involved, the big Chinese enterprises are playing a large role. They are actively settling in European countries, and European leaders are growing wary of their influence in Europe.

“The least connected countries on the Silk Road are also the most potential buyers of commdities, China’s largest export product. These countries will soon become trading partners of China and as such, China takes over massively the role of biggest trading partner in the world from the US.”

He concludes: “The US Secretar of Defense said, however, that there are many roads, not One Belt One Road. In other words, no one country should dictate the geo-politics of such a corrisor.”

15.00: Mels Dees kicks off the summit.

Also read:

Live blog: Silk Road Poland Gateway Summit Day 2

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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