The hub of Europe
Goods streams converge in Duisburg.
Port, rail, road – Duisburg is regarded as Europe’s leading intermodal transport interface and railroad hub. Every important industrial region can be reached from here – and this extensive network is continuously being expanded. Alexander Dobrindt, Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said on the occasion of the port’s 300th anniversary in 2016: “The Port of Duisburg has played a key role in Germany’s economic success story and is now a vibrant marketplace in the heart of Europe. Germany is the world’s leading exporter and logistics center – this success would never have been achieved without the Port of Duisburg.”
The city and the port operator are now looking eastwards to Asia as an attractive destination, which is linked via rail at Duisburg to Europe. “Our extensive intermodal network has played a key role in the last few years enabling Duisburg to be established as the central origin and destination for transcontinental rail links between China and Europe “, says Erich Staake, President & CEO of Duisburger Hafen AG, the management company of the duisport Group. “Together with partners like DHL we are actively helping to develop these routes further and are thus reinforcing Duisburg’s function as the leading logistics hub in Central Europe.”
Cheaper than flying, quicker than a ship
Lead times for intermodal container shipments between Western Europe and China average between 16 and 18 days. This rail link is significantly less expensive than airfreight and considerably faster than seafreight. There are now several freight forwarders specializing in these China trains that ship full containers as well as consolidate individual components to container loads.
Plenty of major German and international manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Siemens or Hewlett-Packard utilize the rail link to China. Daimler, for instance, has linked its factories in Stuttgart, Bremen and Speyer into the land bridge and dispatches up to three trains a week to China. 700 containers were shipped in the period from April to December 2016. The container contents are typically components for installation in automobiles, ranging from headlights to transmissions.
In Duisburg trains head for the Duisburg Intermodal Terminal (DIT) on logport I, which was built on the site of the former Krupp smelting works. It is the largest of the total of eight terminals in the Port of Duisburg. Since operations first commenced in 2011, the number of China trains has increased from 1 to the current 25 a week that head to various destinations (see map). The trains from China currently carry automotive components, IT products and textiles. Mechanical equipment and food products in particular are shipped to China.
“One belt, one road”
This method of transportation is not straightforward. Customs and border formalities, multi-language communication and different track gages are just some examples of the challenges encountered along the way. The risks are complex along this almost 12,000-kilometer route – but the will to overcome these obstacles is just as great. That’s because China wants to enhance the connectivity and development of its central provinces using the “One Belt, One Road” Silk Road initiative as its vehicle.
Duisburger Hafen AG has therefore partnered with China Merchants Logistics Holding (CML) since 2016. The latter is involved in transportation, infrastructure and finance. CMG owns 31 ports in 18 countries and around 1148 logistics centers in key regions. Erich Staake is a strong advocate of this German-Chinese partnership: “We want duisport to evolve into Europe’s leading transport hub for China traffic.”
(published in FLUX 1/2017)