China is the Port of Hamburg’s most important trade partner. Hamburg serves as the gateway to Europe for Chinese goods. Along with handling ocean shipping, the port city is also an important railway hub for transports to and from China. The new Shandong-Europe Express train from Jinan arrived in Hamburg’s Billwerder Terminal for the first time today. It carries valuable and time-sensitive cargo from China to Europe along the New Silk Road.
On April 10, the “Shandong-Europe Express” set out from Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, on its way to Hamburg. The train is loaded with 41 40-foot containers (FEU) filled with wind turbine parts, LEDs, tools, and medical supplies. Currently, the train only operates from China to Europe. Carriage in the other direction is not being offered at this time. The next departures from Jinan are scheduled for May 16 and 30. The freight train is operated by the Shandong Hi-Speed Group as part of their Qilu Europe-Asia freight traffic service.
“The Shandong Express arrived today in Hamburg in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. It is a powerful sign in trying times for all of us. We can only overcome the coronavirus by working together. We can only meet the challenges during and after the crisis by working together. We can only manage it together,” Chinese Consul General DU Xiaohui emphasized at the train’s arrival.
“Hamburg is not only a hub for ocean shipping with China but also an important junction for rail traffic between Europe and China on the New Silk Road,” Axel Mattern, Executive Board Member of Port of Hamburg Marketing (HHM) stated.
Hamburg’s Senator for Economics, Michael Westhagemann added: “I’m very pleased to see that we are able to improve the connections between Hamburg and China even further. Landside connections, particularly transport by rail, provide the Port of Hamburg with great opportunities and are one of its strengths: 12 percent of German rail cargo transport arrives at or departs from the Port of Hamburg. This puts us in an excellent starting position to make good use of this strength in a sustainable way on the Silk Road in the future.”
The Province of Shandong is located on the east coast of China, with the Shandong peninsula forming the southern coast of the Bohai Gulf. According to its gross domestic product (GDP), Shandong is economically the third most important province of China. Industries in the areas of electronics, machinery, chemicals, textiles, and food processing are located there. The Port of Qingdao provides the province with ocean connections to the Port of Hamburg.
The new rail service between Jinan and Hamburg further improves the already extensive supply of train connections between Hamburg. Last year, 204 train connections per week were marketed and run between the Port of Hamburg and 20 destinations in China. Beijing, Changchun, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalina, Ganzhou, Harbin, Hefei, Qingdao, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Shilong, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xi’an, Yiwu, and Zhengzhou were regularly linked with Hamburg via the New Silk Road. In 2019, around 100,000 standard containers (TEU) were transported by rail.
The Port of Hamburg has a throughput of about 2.6 million TEU of seaborne containers for China annually. Almost every third container handled on the quays there is coming from or headed to China.
There are three modes of transport to choose from when shipping goods to or from China: ships, trains, or airplanes. Costs and time are important factors in this decision. Airfreight is obviously the fastest. It can move import and export cargo between Asia and Europe in one to two days. However, it is also very costly. Ocean shipping between the continents is very inexpensive, but it can take up to eight weeks for the goods to reach their destination. The third possibility, shipping by rail, closes the gap between airplanes and ships. Trains take two to three weeks for the route between Europe and Asia. In terms of costs, rail cargo is also in between air and sea transport.