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Eastern priority

Reorientation of cargoes to Makhalino border crossing will increase the throughput capacity of the Eastern polygon
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In the first eight months of 2022 the volume of export shipments through Makhalino-Hunchun (Russia - China) railway border crossing exceeded the figures of the same period last year by 10%. The holding company believes that the growing interest of transport market participants is due to the simplified procedure of transportation approval with the Chinese side, and the absence of anti-epidemiological restrictions in force at other Russian-Chinese border crossing points.

Coal fuels growth

As Ruslan Rozanov, head of the Methodology and Technological Support Division of the Customs Department of Russian Railways’ Center for Corporate Transport Service, told, over the first eight months of 2022, the volume of export freight traffic in communication with China through Makhalino-Hunchun railway border crossing reached 2.3 million tons.

According to the holding company, the main export cargo flows are energy cargoes (coal, oil), ore and products that require temperature control. Coal remains the main driver of loading - its delivery volume to China over the first eight months amounted to 2.1 million tons, or 7% higher than in the same period last year. 

Growth of coal shipments via Russian-Chinese railway border crossings is a well-established trend of the last ten years, says Sergey Borisov, General Director of the National Coal Association.

"Russian-Chinese railway border crossings are the closest checkpoints for Chinese companies that buy this type of products. Thus, this type of shipment guarantees convenient logistics when delivering coal to end consumers, and as a consequence, it is in demand by consignees".  

A track without restrictions

According to Ruslan Rozanov, the interest in Makhalino (Kamyshovaya) - Hunchun railway border crossing is caused by its favorable geographical location, as well as the absence of a number of administrative barriers observed at other checkpoints on the Russian-Chinese border. 

"The section of the railway line from the state border to Hunchun station (PRC) is owned by Northeast Asia Railway Corporation of Jilin Province. Therefore, importers/exporters, in particular, shippers, need only to apply to the owner of the terminal in the city of Hunchun (PRC) to organize foreign trade shipments," he explains. 

The global restructuring of Russian logistics chains, in which many shippers were forced to look for new routes to deliver their goods to the Asian market, has been another driver of the growth of shipments through Makhalino-Hunchun railway border crossing, says Igor Smirnov, Director for Freight Transport and Logistics of the Infrastructure Economics Center.

"These are goods that used to be shipped through the ports of the Northwest to the Asian market, as well as cargoes delivered to the European market," says Igor Smirnov. "The demand for transportation through the Eastern polygon, which has already exceeded the possible carrying capacity of its infrastructure, has increased significantly. The biggest load falls on the railway approaches to the Far Eastern ports. Against this background operators are trying to use routes via overland checkpoints to bypass the main bottlenecks in the infrastructure and ensure the maximum volume of traffic".

Demand breeds new service

To meet the growing demand from shippers, Russian operator companies have offered several export services through Makhalino-Hunchun railway border crossing since the beginning of this year.

Thus, in mid-June, Russian Railways, in cooperation with the Chinese company Jilin Province Jidian International Trade Co., Ltd., organized a delivery from Kemerovo Region to China through Makhalino border crossing with return loading. 

Zhou Dashan, Chairman of the Management Board of Jilin Province Jidian International Trade Co., notes that after the successful completion of the test shipment trains will run on the new route on a regular basis.

In August, TransContainer PJSC (member of Delo Group) also launched a cargo service delivery from China to Russia via Makhalino overland border crossing.  Its railway route goes from the Chinese city of Hunchun to Vorotynsk station of the Moscow railway.

According to Vladimir Khlutkov, TransContainer's Director for Business Development in the Asia-Pacific Region, diversification of routes and organization of import transportation via one more border crossing allow to ensure efficient logistics against the background of high loads on the Eastern polygon. 

At the end of August, Russian Railways Business Asset, together with AMTEK logistics company, organized their own service via Makhalino-Hunchun railway crossing. The first train arrived at Electrougli station of the Moscow Railway on August 28. In the future, the companies expect to arrange weekly transportation on this route.

The Holding Company is expanding capacity

In the face of growing demand, Russian Railways is taking a number of measures to increase the train-handling capacity of Makhalino-Hunchun railway crossing. Thus, back in 2018, the holding company launched an upgrading project at Makhalino station of the Far Eastern Railway. 

"Currently, in accordance with the action plan to increase the capacity of Makhalino checkpoint, the Far Eastern Railway, a branch of Russian Railways, is carrying out laying work for 1435 mm track gauge on a 16 km section from Kamyshovaya station to the state border. The work is scheduled for completion on August 31, 2023", reports Sergey Zakharov, deputy head of the Customs Department of Russian Railways’ Center for Corporate Transport Service.

In addition, thanks to the agreements reached between representatives of Russian Railways and the Chinese Railway, it became possible to switch the railway checkpoint to round-the-clock operation.  

According to Gleb Kichi, acting head of Ussuriysk customs, the full-fledged transition of both sides to 24-hour operation will contribute to an increase in cargo traffic coming through Makhalino checkpoint.

Thus, according to the estimates of Northeast Asia Corporation, the volume of import-export cargoes from September to December 2022 will reach 2.5 million tons, and at the end of the year it will exceed the annual plan of 4.5 million tons. The border crossing’s capacity will increase from four to eight trains per day. 

Anastasia Baranets

21 September 2022

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