Land, air and sea search for faster delivery of China-European containers
WHILE super-size containerships sailing at comparatively low speeds carry international trade between Chinese and European ports at low cost per container, the extended time-durations-in-transit between the destination ports has prompted a segment of the market to seek faster delivery of containers
WHILE super-size containerships sailing at comparatively low speeds carry international trade between Chinese and European ports at low cost per container, the extended time-durations-in-transit between the destination ports has prompted a segment of the market to seek faster delivery of containers.
Railway lines extend across Russia between borders with China and with Europe, but Russian trains operate on a different railway gauge to China and Europe which use the international gauge. Several years ago, a railway line built to the international gauge was opened between Tehran, Iran and Beijing, China, and that includes a connection via ferry around Lake Vaan into the European railway system.
The market for faster-than-ship transportation of containers between China and Europe has risen to a level to warrant multiple daily departures of trains along the steel-rail Great Silk Road. At the present time, trains are restricted in length to carrying 100-containers (200 TEU) on a single level.
By comparison, several North American railways and a few railway lines in India operate double-stack containers on railway flat cars, greatly improving the effectiveness and cost competitiveness of railway transportation. Some North American railways can move 800 TEU on extended length container trains pulled by combination of forward and mid-train locomotives.
The Great Silk Railroad seeks to rival the delivery times of their North American counterparts, with projected delivery between Eastern China and Western Europe being aimed at one-week or less, reports Port Lauderdale's Maritime Executive.
By 2020, trains will need to move some two million TEU per year between China and Europe. The plan includes raising train speed by 30 per cent from 1,150km to 1,500km per day along a 1.52-metre railway gauge (48-km/hour to 62-km/hour), also involving logistical changes with customs departments at borders to reduce delays and a major reconstruction along stretches of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
By 2025 to 2030, railway container trade between China and Western Europe could approach three million TEU per year involving hourly departures of container trains that involve forward and mid-train locomotives.
The market for fast deliver of high priority containers could include daily flights of Boeing's proposed 28-TEU airborne container carrier on 16 to 20-hour duration flights of 6,000-miles distance that could likely transport just over 10,000-TEU per year. There could even be a market for daily departures of a mega-size 5,000-tonne ground-effect transport vehicle offering three-day delivery carrying containers over land and over water between Shanghai and Bremen on River Elbe.
Cosco recently commissioned the design of a containership of 25,000-TEU capacity. While its projected operating costs are expected to be little different to that of ships of 18,000 to 20,000-TEU, the additional capacity offer lower per-container transportation costs between major Asian and European ports.
Egypt's Suez Canal Commission will ultimately decide the dimensions of the next generation of mega-size container ships, after completion and opening of twin navigation channels between the Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Suez. There may be scope for future deeper dredging to offer greater navigation depth along future twin navigation channels to transit slightly deeper draft container ships.
Faster overland transportation will involve upgrades to both the railway lines to carry additional containers at higher speed as well as streamlining customs inspections at borders to reduce delays.