Netherlands to Russia/China pilot rail service for fresh salmon

Duisberg, Germany: DBO Bahnopertor has run the first container train load of fresh salmon from the Netherlands to Russia and China.

It is the first test shipment of a product that was previously sanctioned to travel through Russian territory. If all goes well, a fresh product line to China via Russia will begin in April.

The train, operated by DBO Bahnopertor, departed on Saturday morning, with its final destination Xi’an. Here, it will be trucked to Shanghai at the eastcoast of China.

“On the border with Russia, the electronic seal will be attached to the container”, says Hanno Reeser, from HEssers, a shareholder of New Silk Way Logistics.

“This is currently done by the Russian government, which is also involved in the test. But ultimately, the railway operator on that stretch is responsible for the application of the seal”, he said.

The seal is however not the only additional work that is done. “The shipment requires additional paperwork, informing about the type of the product, the end destination and the purpose. This filing is subject to a learning curve. We had to learn what to prepare for this first shipment. But once we have done this several times, we will know how to operate this new service”, Reesere says.

The market has waited long for the realisation of the transit shipment, as there was a period of uncertainty after the first announcement last summer. Also from the Russian side, there was a long period of documentation preparation.

The lift of the ban on transit traffic from EU countries will be an opportunity for European shippers, while Russia will be able to increase the freight volumes transported via its territory. The existing alternative routes are very complicated, therefore the main benefits will be for Russia as a transit country.

There is currently great demand of certain food products in China, especially as freight flows have been disturbed due to the coronavirus outbreak. “There are things that China really needs at the moment”, said Kuznetsova.

In general, China lacks meat products as beef and pork, as well as fish, wine and beers, dairy, or other food products. Flowers from the Netherlands are another popular import product, all of which were banned for transit through Russia.

The current test of New Silk Way Logistics is shipping salmon from the Netherlands, but there are many other services lined up for this type of transport. In Norway, a salmon train had been ready for departure since the announcement. It would move salmon from the port of Narvik to Xi’an in China, where demand is currently met by air transport. Approximately 30,000 tonnes of salmon are shipped from Helsinki to China per year.

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