Ukraine as a final destination rather than transit country for China
The first regular railway service from China to Ukraine is a fact. On Monday 6 July, a container train arrived in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, orginating from Wuhan. It was the first of a new regular railway service, where Ukraine is the final destination rather than a transit country for traffic to Europe.
The freight train left the centrally located city of Wuhan on 16 June and was welcomed in Ukraine with an arrival ceremony. Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Vladyslav Krykliisaid was present at the ceremony, and called the service an important step towards regular container transportation from China to Ukraine. The Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong, also present, called the event an important symbolic significance for Sino-Ukrainian relations. This was reported by Xinhua net, a Chinese news website.
In June the first direct rail service from China rolled into the terminal of Kiev. It arrived on 8 June and originated from Yantai. This service was arranged by EU-Trans, a Kiev-based freight forwarding provider. It ran via Mongolia and Russia and consisted of 41 40-foot containers loaded with a multifarious range of goods: from clothes and footwear to medical and technological equipment. The journey took fifteen days.
This was the first pilot shipment, the forwarding explained at that time. “We have successfully tested the opportunities of this route. Currently, we are working with our partners on reducing the delivery time and arranging new shipments to Ukraine from other Chinese cities”, CEO of EU-Trans Ievgen Balashov said to RailFreight after the arrival of the test journey.
Now, a month later, the service is on the timetables. According to the Chinese news source, Ukrainian Railways plans to expand the route with more destinations such as Kharkiv, Odessa and other cities. “For now, we have made plans with our partners about one train per week. It is a reasonable volume for a start”, said Oleksandr Polishchuk, first deputy head of Liski, a branch company of Ukrainian Railways that specialises in intermodal transportation to Xinhua.
“One time per week allows us to improve the technology, work out necessary procedures with customs and controlling authorities, as well as with our clients.”
The route via Mongolia and Russia is a notable choice, as most trains heading for Ukraine are taking the Middle Corridor. On this route, cargo coming from Kazakhstan is reloaded onto vessels at the port of Aktau to cross the Caspian Sea. In the Azerbaijani port of Baku, the cargo is loaded on the train again. This is indeed the route of the first test shipment in 2016.
However, logistics companies needed to use two ferry links: one crossing the Caspian Sea and another crossing the Black Sea. The Black Sea leg is still the Achilles heel of the route, which makes it less popular among logistics providers. The land route via Mongolia and Russia is a viable alternative.