Japanese and Chinese logistics firms are paving the way for an alternative route to ship cargo from Japan to Europe faster than by sea by exploiting China’s ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ designed to improve regional cooperation and connectivity.

Major Japanese logistics firm Nissin Corp. and Sinotrans, China’s largest integrated logistics service provider, joined hands this summer to undertake a sea-and-rail shipment trial from the Far East to Western Europe via China and Central Asia.

The trial aims to build a new option besides the sea and air transport between the two regions, with cargo from Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest port, taking 28 days to reach Hamburg, Germany, about a week less than marine transport.

Nissin said it measured changes in temperature, humidity and shakiness in containers through the trial to assure customers of viable services.

The containers were shipped to Lianyungang port in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu and transported westward on a freight train to Khorgos, a border town and transshipment point in China’s Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region adjacent to Kazakhstan.

The train passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland en route to Hamburg. Japanese and Chinese logistics firms are paving the way for an alternative route to ship cargo from Japan to Europe faster than by sea by exploiting China’s ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ designed to improve regional cooperation and connectivity.

Major Japanese logistics firm Nissin Corp. and Sinotrans, China’s largest integrated logistics service provider, joined hands this summer to undertake a sea-and-rail shipment trial from the Far East to Western Europe via China and Central Asia.

The trial aims to build a new option besides the sea and air transport between the two regions, with cargo from Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest port, taking 28 days to reach Hamburg, Germany, about a week less than marine transport.

Nissin said it measured changes in temperature, humidity and shakiness in containers through the trial to assure customers of viable services.

The containers were shipped to Lianyungang port in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu and transported westward on a freight train to Khorgos, a border town and transhipment point in China’s Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region adjacent to Kazakhstan. The train passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland en route to Hamburg.

Cargo from Japan includes auto parts and daily necessities, Gao Chen, Vice President of Sinotrans Japan, said at the forum.

Nippon Express Co., Japan’s largest logistics firm, also has continued similar trial shipments since last year, transporting cargo such as car components and electrical precision parts upon request by a number of clients.

Some of the customers have experimented with it several times, Yasuo Edo at the International Business Headquarters in Tokyo told in an email interview.

The company also began participating in an experimental trial from September through next March for Eurasian railroad shipments initiated by Japan’s economy ministry.

Jialing-Honda Motors Co., a general purpose engine manufacturer of the Japanese automaker in Chongqing, central China, uses China Railway Express to deliver its products to Belgium. Nippon Express handles Honda’s cargo and takes 17 days for delivery.

The engines are used for mowing machines and cultivators, among other equipment, said Toyofumi Fukushima, General Manager of both the sales division and the logistics division. “Railway transport enables us to deliver (our products) in a timely manner” to cater to seasonable demand in spring and summer, he added.

Trade volume between China and the European Union was worth €573 billion ($657 billion) in 2017, according to the European Commission.

Eurasian railway shipments make up a tiny fraction of the value, but a sharp increase in railway freight volume is stirring hopes of economic benefits in landlocked countries along the routes.

Resource-rich Uzbekistan plans to develop railways connecting with China and Kyrgyzstan to enhance the country’s goods exports, including mineral resources and farm, produce while attracting investments and revitalising its economy.

“Railway transportation takes 15 days to ship goods from China to Europe, only half the time of marine transport,” Bakhriddinov Mansur, representative director of the Japan Uzbekistan Silk Road Foundation, said in his speech at the forum.

“Cargo volume expansion could lead to low-cost logistics”

In May, Japan and China signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the Japan-China Forum on Third Country Business Cooperation joined by a wide range of private companies and relevant ministries.

The forum’s kickoff meeting will be held in time for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China later this month, with the Japanese leader and his Chinese counterpart to attend the event.

The cooperation includes Japanese companies’ expansion in logistics with the use of railways between China and Europe, according to the Japanese government.