Significant increase in transit container shipping between China and Europe

Containers on Russian railway network
Image: Russian Railways

Container shipping between China and Europe on Russian Railways’ infrastructure reached the amount of 50,800 TEU for September 2020. In comparison with the same period last year, the numbers increased up to 1.7 times. Simultaneously, container traffic between China and Europe from January to September 2020 increased 1.6 times, thus reaching 387,900 TEU.

Following an ascending course over the last nine months, container transportation numbers between Europe and China already exceed expectations. 2019 as a whole saw a total number of 347.000 TEU being shipped. However, the number of 387,000 TEU until September 2020 not only surpasses the total amount of last year but also promises a satisfying overall growth.

Importance of corridors

Corridors and routes for train containers continue developing and changing to abide to the needs of the market.Mongolia serves as an excellent example of a route that joined the New Silk Road not long ago. Since 2016, when Russia and China agreed to establish a freight corridor through the country, there has been a noticeable transition. From an alternative route of the New Silk Road, Mongolia nowadays sees several container trains transiting through the country, connecting China with Europe. The number of 15,000 TEU that were transported along the northern route, and through Mongolia, between January- September 2020 is indicative. Specifically, the amount increased by 25 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

On the same level, Kaliningrad contributed largely to multimodal transportation, using both railways and sea lines. Being characterised as the most successful route of the New Silk Road for the year 2020, Kaliningrad railway dispatched more than 6,900 TEU during last September. This means that the transit volume was ten times bigger than in the same period in 2019. Additionally, Kaliningrad is becoming of even more central importance, considering the role it plays in the Altynkol-Kaliningrad-Hamburg multimodal service route, both as a rail transit destination, and a maritime gateway.

Overall view

In an exceptionally challenging year, considering the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic set, the growth of traffic between China and Europe was not affected. Due to the quality of services, the diversification of the routes and the competitive pricing conditions, numbers significantly increased, rather than decreased.

Do you want to hear all about the development on the New Silk Road in 2020? On 10 and 11 November the European Silk Road Summit 2020 takes place, this time as an online edition. The impact of the pandemic, the current volumes and the forecasts for the year to come are certainly among the topics on the programme. Have a look here or register here.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is the Chief Editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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