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Europe opts for speed

The growth of transit traffic through the Russian Railways network brings a synergetic effect to its neighbors
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The growth of transit traffic through the Russian Railways network from Southeast Asia to Northern Europe has enabled the logistics operator Nurminen Logistics to organize a direct sea line between Finnish ports and Sweden. The first feeder vessel voyage was made in January. A part of the transit traffic from Asia to Scandinavia is redirected to land transport corridors.

According to the Oktyabrsky Territorial Center for Corporate Transport Service (TCCTS), in 2021, more than 10,000 transit TEUs (the equivalent of a twenty-foot container) passed through border crossings with Finland to Europe from the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), or three times more than in 2020. Almost 9,000 TEUs were transported last year in the opposite direction, which is also almost three times more as compared with 2020.

As Maxim Losev, Deputy Head for Marketing and Planning of the Oktyabrsky TCCTS, notes, the increase of the transit cargo flow is one of the key tasks of the Oktyabrskaya railway and the whole network in general.

"The opening of a direct feeder connection between Finland and Sweden will attract to the Russian Railways network new cargo flows, which have traditionally been shipped from Scandinavia by sea," says Maxim Losev. "The advantages of the multimodal route are that it is twice as fast, more environmentally friendly and still maintains a competitive cost compared with transportation via the deep sea".

According to Olga Stepanova, Vice President for Rail Transportation and CEO of Nurminen Logistics' Russian division, multimodal container transit traffic from China, Japan and South Korea via Russia and Finland to Sweden and back has been under way since the company opened regular services. Rail service with Chinese shippers has been open since 2018, and multimodal service linking Japan and Korea with Northern European countries was organized last year.
However, the lack of sufficient transit flow did not allow the company to organize a direct feeder service between the two countries. 

"Now the volume of cargo in transit through Russia and Finland to Sweden and back has increased significantly", says Olga Stepanova. "However, the capacity of the existing shipping lines between Finland and Sweden did not meet our needs. Previously feeder vessels delivered containers from Finland to Sweden and back via Germany and Poland. It took at least a week or more for cargo to arrive by sea through ports in other countries, including container transshipments". 

Today, the increased flow of transit containers has made it possible to organize direct service by sea from Finland to Sweden. The first containers were shipped from the port of Helsinki, Finland, to the port of Jävle, Sweden, in January.  "Now we have a direct route between the two countries and the possibility to significantly reduce the transit time of cargo delivery on the final part of the route to 20 hours," Olga Stepanova told Gudok.

Also the CEO of Nurminen Logistics' Russian division notes that Sweden is a major trade partner of APR countries, both in import and export commodity turnover. 

"Therefore, at the moment, our flows to and from Sweden are almost balanced," reports Olga Stepanova. "The range of cargo arriving from Southeast Asia is quite broad and includes in particular consumer goods, electronics and parts of industrial and construction equipment. Specialized cardboard and industrial production components are transported in the opposite direction".

The feeder route's frequency in short-haul traffic is once every two weeks. "We plan to increase the frequency of service as transit volumes continue growing," says Olga Stepanova.

It should be noted that in December last year, in order to develop services and improve convenience of shippers, Nurminen Logistics, the Swedish freight forwarder NTEX and the shipping company Stena Rederi signed a letter of intent, under which the parties will jointly develop rail services for the delivery of cargoes from China and Asian countries to Sweden and Norway and back. 

According to Nurminen Logistics CEO Olli Pohjanvirta, the cooperation between the companies will bring Chinese-European railroad transportation to a new level. The operators will offer shippers a full range of services: rail, sea and road transportation and customs procedures in European countries. 

"The growing demand for greener and more sustainable logistics is driving the development of existing services and the search for new rail freight solutions between Asia and Scandinavia," says NTEX CEO Thomas Ström.

"Our plans include studying and analyzing the opening of new services, in particular in the Baltic countries and the possible organization of a railway transit service through Kaliningrad," Olli Pohjanvirta sums up.

Sergei Volkov

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