In recent days, New Silkroad Discovery interviewed Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva, Director of Sales China-CIS, -Central Asia, -Europe bei RTSB GmbH.
New Silkroad Discovery: Has there been recent congestion on the Brest-Terespol Corridor? Please tell us about the situation there?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: Rail traffic at the border crossing Brest-Terespol increased immensely in the past months because of the impact of the ongoing Covid pandemic. Borders as well as air- and seaports were closed to prevent the virus from spreading further, resulting in a shift from air and sea freight to rail. However, even before the outbreak of the pandemic the majority of freight trains from China, not only via Kazakhstan but also via Mongolia and Zabaykalsk/Russia ran through Brest. Additionally, other transports, mainly conventional, are processed in Brest, as well, so congestion doesn`t come as a surprise. A lot of work has been done on both sides of the border to meet lacks in infrastructure and alignment, causing capacity shortages and delays. Yet, with an always growing demand for rail transportation between Europe and China, alternative routes are needed to further improve transit times and relieve the tension on the traditional corridor.
New Silkroad Discovery: You are one of the first companies in the industry to provide services at the Svisloch and Grodno Border Crossing Corridor in Belarus. Could you please tell us about the current operation and capacity of these corridors?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: We started testing alternative corridors back in 2017, because we were aware of the situation arising in Brest/Malaszewicze. Svisloch and Grodno proved to be efficient with access to narrow and wide gauge, however capacities and infrastructure are limited and need further improvement in order to become real alternatives to the main corridor Brest-Terespol. Especially the handling of customs procedures and phytosanitary controls is not finalized and standardized, yet, so that only dedicated trains can be processed efficiently at the moment. Polish railways and the Polish customs authorities have been working hard to align and regulate those processes and we are optimistic to be able to start using the border crossing in Svisloch by October for mixed trains, as well.
We also started focusing more on the Kaliningrad region, as it offers some important advantages over alternative inland hubs and just began using Slawkow for traffic via Ukraine.
New Silkroad Discovery: Your company also provides services in the Russian ports of Kaliningrad and the Baltic Sea. How do you assess the potential for development in this region? What are the advantages of the route through Kaliningrad over traditional transport routes?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: The Kaliningrad region offers great potential as an alternative border crossing in order to relieve the main hub. We currently run three to four trains a week between Kaliningrad / Braniewo and Duisburg as well as Ludwigshafen. Besides that, our express train from Xi’an to Neuss links through Kaliningrad / Braniewo three times a week with a lead time of only 14 days. However, capacities for intermodal traffic are limited. That’s why we started using the port of Kaliningrad to offer a complementary product: a sea link to Hamburg.
The ports of Kaliningrad and the Baltic Sea hold clear advantages: they provide a stable network with reliable schedules, already proven to be effective. Freight is directly railed to those ports, then going right on feeder ships for further distribution. Those multimodal connections are especially interesting for transports to destinations in Scandinavia, Benelux, Germany and Great Britain, since they are easily accessible via the Baltic Sea. By channeling containers through these ports, we are able to absorb additional volumes and keep transit times short.
New Silkroad Discovery: How do you rate the southern route of the Middle Corridor (Trans-Caspian and BTK)? What areas of this corridor are currently in need of improvement, in order to make it as a more attractive route for the market?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: Ever since the formation of the TMTM committee in 2014, stronger cooperation between the countries involved in transports along the middle corridor has been accomplished, making this route more and more accessible. Effective rates for container transportation and tariffs for the transport of conventional goods along the TMTM route were adopted. We believe the middle corridor will gain popularity as the cooperation develops further and becomes more stable because it is in fact very attractive, especially for transports to South-Eastern European countries.
Our subsidiaries in Istanbul and Izmir support the development of the middle corridor with volumes on the regular container train service between Xi’an and Izmit (Turkey).
New Silkroad Discovery: What new thoughts has the epidemic outbreak brought to your mind this year?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: The pandemic outbreak showed us how stable and reliable the product rail freight really is. It gained great popularity over the past months with good reason and I am optimistic, that many logistics companies and freight forwarders will implement this mode of transport in their logistics chains in the future.
Another thing I realized is the importance of digitalization. During lockdown digitalization was a key factor for keeping processes flowing and thus the overall survival and success of many companies. We invested in our web-based IT-system myTransoffice early enough, allowing us to work independently and deliver a quality product for our customers, even when most of our staff worked from their Home-Office during the peak of the pandemic in March/April.
New Silkroad Discovery: Could you please tell our readers about your company’s latest products and services?
Ms. Kateryna Negrieieva: Our latest products are new connections between Chinese hubs and the European hinterland as well as a multimodal link between Dostyk/Khorgos and Hamburg via Kaliningrad in cooperation with Belintertrans und UTLC. This joint product combines a rail connection to Kaliningrad with a sea link to Hamburg. Our first chartered vessel left the port of Kaliningrad on September 2nd and arrived in Hamburg on September 4th. From Hamburg freight is then further distributed by train or truck through our large network.
This vessel will run twice a week, complementing our intermodal rail links via Kaliningrad/Braniewo.
Another product we introduced this month is our Slawkow train from Xi’an.
However, we also focus on strengthening our current routes between Belarus and Poland and are working on offering a more stable and optimized product. We are convinced, the main hub Brest will recover, as more traces will become available after the construction work is finished.