Belarus hopes to play bigger role in booming China-Europe rail freight service sector
A loader moves a China-Europe rail freight container in Minsk, Belarus, in 2018. (Photo by Xinhua)

Belarus is committed to continuously optimizing China-Europe rail freight service on its territory, aiming to become a land link between China and Europe, said a Belarusian official.

Belarus Ambassador to China Yury Senko said Belarus provides a large share of all rail traffic on the route between China and Europe, and it has taken a set of measures to speed up the movement of container trains through Belarusian border crossings.

“Today, business requires a constant reduction in delivery times and costs, and the positive dynamics of railway cargo transport pose several tasks for the future,” Senko said.

To optimize traffic, Belarus is developing prospects for creating single digital transport corridors. In this regard, it relies on the introduction of paperless document management, end-to-end train schedules, electronic interaction with state regulatory authorities, blockchain technology and use of smart seals.

“Special priority should be given to improving the transport infrastructure and establishing mutually beneficial contacts with business partners. So Belarus consistently steps forward to having these priorities-openness, progressive initiatives and successful use of modern logistics trends,” he added.

In 2017, Belarusian Railways was one of the first to support the initiative of China Railways and took an active part in the preparation of the agreement between the railways of China, Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland and Russia on deepening cooperation in the organization of container trains for connecting China and Europe, which was signed in April 2017.

As part of the implementation of this agreement, a memorandum on joint action aimed at increasing the speed of container trains traveling between China and Europe was signed in December 2020. In the near future, the task is to develop and coordinate with all participants in the transportation process to achieve a set of specific measures.

In 2020, more than 100 container trains with exports from Belarusian enterprises were sent to China, Senko said.

Currently, container trains run between 60 Chinese cities and 50 European cities in 15 countries.

Senko said rail container transport between Europe and China during the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly strengthened its place in the logistics supply chains, being at times the only reliable means of transport.

In 2020, China became the second-biggest trading partner of Belarus for the first time, recording a historic high in bilateral trade.

The mutual turnover of goods and services amounted to $5.4 billion despite the coronavirus impact and the global crisis, up by $9.5 million year-on-year, he added.

Belarus was one of the first countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative, one of the most important elements of which has been the development of accelerated China-Europe rail transport.

Thanks to the BRI and measures taken to accelerate the development of China-Europe container transport via Belarus, major results have been seen, Senko said.

According to Senko, 550,000 containers passed through Belarus in 2020, 14.5 times the number recorded in 2014. Even in a difficult year for trade in 2020, Belarus handled 25 percent more containers than in the previous year.

Senko said that in less than a year, the country will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China.

“During this time, our countries have managed to create an atmosphere of mutual trust by concrete examples that we can effectively cooperate in politics, economics and humanitarian areas.”

Looking ahead, he said he believes the two nations will continue to deepen cooperation in various fields, and he sees rising growth potential in the world’s second-largest economy.

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China, as well as the beginning of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for the formation of a new development architecture and the implementation of the development paradigm of dual-circulation. Undoubtedly, partner countries will also receive a new impetus for development,” he added.