Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Old silk route revisited, Beijing to London - rail vs sea..

The world's most busiest sea lanes are between China and Britain. The distance of about 11,865 nautical miles (21,360 kms) between Shanghai, China and London Thamesport UK is covered by container ships at an average speed of 10 knots per hour, ie. 18 kms per hour over 50 days. The route covers the Indian Ocean travelling across the southern tip of India through the Suez canal into Mediterranean sea, covering Spain and reaching United Kingdom.

As part of the OBOR, one border one road initiative from Chinese Pres, and to partly revive the old Chinese silk land route 2000 years back, connecting China with Europe, the longest train journey was completed over 17 days in January of this year covering 8000 miles. The return journey from London to Beijing carrying 30 containers of whiskey, soft drinks, pharmaceuticals is starting today from London reaching Beijing in 17 days covering the 8000 miles distance travelling across the Channel tunnel to France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakstan before entering China. The distance of 8000 miles (11800km) will be covered in 17 days at an average sped of 31.4 km/hr.

The biggest advantage of this land route is the savings in time by almost 67%. Travel time is reduced to almost one third from 50 days to 17 days. Even though the fuel costs would be more and it would result in greater environmental damage, the strategic advantage it would bring to China in terms of opening a new land route via Asia and Europe is a great de-risking opportunity for China in case its route to the outside world through the South China sea is blocked because of a future regional war over the rights to South China sea islands.     

In this train carrying maximum 30 containers, each container can be loaded with app 36 T (80,000 pounds). The largest container ship in the world presently, MSC Oscar of Mediterranean Shipping Company can accommodate upto 19,224 Twenty foot equivalent Units (TEUs) with a Dead Weight Tonnage of 196,362 Tonnes (includes the weight of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water etc..).

China in its growing international clout is able to run a train through these countries over 8000 miles distance. This is a historical event as also a strategic event for China trying to find an alternate land route for its goods to the outside world.

george.. (pic courtesy Reuters)

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to know about the successful train run between Europe and China. The tensions around South China Sea can indeed turn into a roadblock for China's complex supply chain needs.. And opening of the new route can serve as a good alternative in case tensions among countries related to South China Sea trade worsen..

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