Railforum 2017 - Mission Possible

RailForum 2017 provided a comprehensive overview of what’s happening on the tracks now and in the future. Hosted by news anchor Peter Nyman, the event attracted logistics professionals from around the world to Kuusankoskitalo, Kouvola, on 28 September. Under the heading, INTERNATIONAL NEWS, the seminar guests received key info on the emerging “Silk Road 2.0”.

Nancy Li, General Director, Scan-China International Link, Finland, gave a presentation which focused on Xi’an, an up-and-coming inland port with a population of more than 8 million people. Xi’an, the eastern starting point of the original Silk Road, is now poised to make a comeback to the big scene. Backed by the Chinese policy of “One Belt, One Road”, Xi’an can achieve great things in the future. The Xi’an logistics area is also a free-trade zone. 

According to Li, the Xi’an inland port is on its way to becoming an international conglomerate with special prowess in multimodal operations which were launched in October 2016. Combining rail with air and sea will yield the best results, she believes.

“We are creating a portside industrial ecosystem,” she says, adding that multimodal transport targets “seamless” connections.     

Container trains leaving from Xi’an can reach Kouvola in 14-15 days, she says, adding that Xi’an can both send and receive one train per week.

“There is a modern container facility at the centre of Xi’an and, also, a cold-chain logistics base,” she says. Already such companies as online giant Alibaba have a strong presence there.    

The Missing Link

Murat Nurtleuov, the Kazakhstan ambassador to Finland, comments that since Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, it has to be creative in developing its logistics. Henceforth, the state made the decision to start heavy investments in infrastructure (26 billion USD to date) and has realised the Khorgos logistics area on the border of China and Kazakhstan. This China/Kazakhstan free-trade -zone has literally emerged from nowhere and is now getting ready for a bright future, complete with robotics, automation and digital economy.

“Europa and Asia are the biggest continents and we want to boost the connections between these two,” says Nurtleuov, adding that the EU is already the biggest investor in the country.

“And with regards to Finland, we are Finland’s biggest trade partner in Central Asia and Finland is our biggest trade partner in the Nordics,” he says, calling Finland a “strategic partner” for Kazakhstan.

Success via Collaboration

Alexander Ostrovsky, the Belarussian ambassador for Finland, says that the issue of building logistics corridors often comes down to constructing solutions that work.

“There will always be challenges, but for example in Belarus, we revamped our tariff policy last year to make way for practices that are more simple and better optimised,” Ostrovsky says.

He believes that container trains running along the Silk Road will face tough competition from other modes of transport, but collaboration will help to overcome the obstacles.

“The focus must be in making freight as efficient as possible.”  

Thunder on the Tracks

Chen Si, Director at Hellman Worldwide Logistics, says that the more efficient utilisation of the Eurasian land bridge makes perfect sense.

“Multimodal services are now better able to support industries such as automotive, fashion or retail.”

Just one example: chemical industries can take advantage of the service providers’ containment tanks which are fully temperature controlled.

According to a Hellmann study, industry players taking freight to/from China are interested in e.g. reliable lead times, simple customs, flexibility and – of course – competitive prices. As infrastructure and terminals keep developing, Si expects that there will be a lot of action along the tracks.

“We believe that the Eurasian land bridge will be utilised more and more in the future.”       


Text by Sami Anteroinen, Dialog Designs Oy

Foto by Johannes Wiehn: Mr. Zhaslan Khamzin, KTZE Khorgos Gateway, Mr. Murat Nurtleuov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan and Mr. Almat Karimov, KTZ Express at Railforum 2017 in Kouvola