China-Europe freight trains makes institutional innovation to improve efficiency

Photo shows the Chengdu International Railway Port. Photo by Bai Guibin/People's Daily Online

China-Europe freight trains departing Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan province, delivered surprisingly remarkable performance despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 2,000 trips were made in the January-November period this year, up 55 percent from a year ago.

The point-to-point transport offered by the freight services were a major reason for the rocketing figure, said Yang Qiling, general manager of the Chengdu International Railway Port Investment & Development (Group) Co., Ltd.

Massive quantities of cargos were passed on to railway transportation as maritime and air transportation has been impacted by COVID-19. Preventative medical materials were the first to drive the cargo growth handled by the China-Europe freight trains, followed by huge demand for imports and exports, Yang introduced.

A slew of favorable policies also contributed to the growth, Yang explained, citing the Chengdu International Railway Port, which was approved to be one of the first land port logistics hubs in China in September last year, as well as an economic development zone established in the port August this year. Thanks to the favorable policies, the port enjoys gradually maturing logistics, and a number of foreign trade enterprises and platforms have been established around it.

Institutional innovation leads to constantly improving customs clearance efficiency and service quality.

Home appliance manufacturer Konka started builting assembly lines for TVs in Chengdu’s Qingbaijiang district last December, aiming to export its products to Europe. Zhang Wenwu, general manager of the corporation’s manufacturing department once worried about the shipping of the products, as the TVs are expected to delivered to a wide range of destinations but in small quantities.

It was the customized transportation services launched by the Chengdu International Railway Port that eased Zhang’s concerns. The services are tailored for clients who book only a single or a few containers of a train, so that Konka’s products can be sent to as many European countries as possible. At present, there are multiple routes being opened, and they run stably in two-way directions.

Since 2017, the Chengdu International Railway Port has launched a “single waybill” mechanism for multimodal transport, so as to relieve foreign trade enterprises’ burden of settlement and financing when they ship cargos to other countries on rail tracks.

In the past, trade settlement and financing couldn’t be finished with waybills as different countries have different rules on rail transport, and waybills were not able to prove the property right of the cargos. Aiming to reform the standards, operation rules, cargo safety and financial settlement, the “single waybill” mechanism has largely improved trade facilitation.

The first train operated under the mechanism departed Tilburg in the Netherlands for Chengdu in April 2017.

Not long ago, a fully loaded freight train arrived at the Chengdu International Railway Port from Russia. Zhong Tao, who received orders from the train, told People’s Daily that small and micro enterprises, which are vulnerable capital-wise, had big troubles purchasing products from overseas, as rail waybills were not able to function when it came to financing.

“Thanks to the ‘single waybill’ mechanism, our burden is tremendously relieved,” he said. His company now enjoys a revolving credit of as much as 3 million yuan (nearly $458,000) jointly guaranteed by the port, a bank and a bonding company.

Yang told People’s Daily that as a contributor to Chengdu’s efforts in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chengdu International Railway Port will facilitate the foreign trade of Chengdu, Sichuan, and even other regions. So far, the port has connected 55 foreign cities and 18 Chinese cities, building 7 international rail routes and 6 international maritime-railway transport passages. It has driven over $20 billion worth of foreign trade, significantly promoting the foreign trade in west China.

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