New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor achieves rapid development

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A Container Yard With A Capacity Of Million
A container yard with a capacity of 4.5 million tons was put into operation at the Qianjiang Railway Station along the Chongqing-Huaihua Railway on Feb. 29. Photo shows the first train departing from the Qianjiang Railway Station to run along the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC). (Photo by Yang Min/People's Daily Online)

By Jiang Feng, Zhang Yunhe, Song Haoxin, Zhang Danhua, 

Serving as a vital connection between the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC), which runs through the western part of China, is rapidly expanding. 

According to the latest statistics, 615,200 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were transported along the route in 2023, up 7 percent year on year, with the total value exceeding 64.32 billion yuan ($8.9 billion), an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. Besides, the ILSTC has reached 490 ports in 120 countries and regions, transporting more than 1,100 types of goods.

At the Guoyuan Port in Liangjiang New Area, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, a train loaded with goods such as general machinery and chemical products slowly departed with a sharp blast of whistle. Two days later, it arrived in the ASEAN region via the Qinzhou Port, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The Guoyuan Port is the largest container hub in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. At this point, the ILSTC converges with the China-Europe freight line that starts from Chongqing and Sichuan, and the Yangtze River, often dubbed the “golden waterway.”

The bustling activities in Guoyuan Port mirror the ILSTC’s rapid development as a vital logistics pathway. As of December 2023, 42 national logistics hubs have been established in provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions along the corridor. In 2023, 11 new national logistics hubs were set up in such cities as Chongqing, Chengdu, Guiyang, and Zunyi as part of the efforts to reinforce their role as important logistics nodes. 

“In 2023, 584,000 TEUs were transported along the corridor via sea-rail intermodal trains, with a total value surpassing 49.17 billion yuan ($6.8 billion), representing a year-on-year growth of 7 percent and 3 percent respectively,” said Liu Wei, director of the ILSTC’s Coordination Center for Logistics and Operation. 

According to Liu, there are daily cargo services operating in both directions, connecting Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan, and the Beibu Gulf Port. Cargo trains in Guangxi are also heading towards the Beibu Gulf Port on a daily basis.

In September 2023, the first International Road Transport (often referred to as TIR) route connecting China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was officially put into operation in Sichuan province. On the day of its opening, two container trucks carrying 42 tons of tea departed from Yibin city of Sichuan province and exited through the Irkeshtam Port in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. They made their way through Kyrgyzstan and arrived in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, eight days later.

“The route’s opening well addressed our urgent need,” said Ying Yuhang, deputy general manager of a tea trade company in Yibin, adding that at that time, the company’s clients in Uzbekistan were facing inventory shortages. The route ensured timely supply of goods and facilitated cooperation between the company and its Uzbekistan partners, Ying noted.

TIR is a global customs transit system based on the UN Convention, often implemented in international cross-border freight transportation. When moving across international borders, vehicles holding TIR certificates are granted streamlined customs procedures and faster clearance. 

In the past, it would take around 30 days to deliver goods from Yibin to Tashkent. However, the TIR system now allows for time savings of two thirds compared to railway transportation, despite the higher cost. This mode of transportation is well-suited for carrying high-value and time-sensitive goods, such as electronics and cold chain products.

Through ongoing institutional innovation, the ILSTC’s comprehensive service capability keeps improving.

Customs clearance continues to be facilitated. The overall customs clearance time for import and export at ports of Guangxi stands at 15.16 hours and 0.28 hours respectively, a reduction of 73.2 percent and 98.01 percent compared to 2017. 

The customs offices in Chongqing municipality, Kunming of Yunnan province, and Manzhouli of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region have enhanced cooperation and coordination. For cargo shipped from Moscow to China via the Manzhouli Port and those shipped from China to Map Ta Phut, Thailand through the Mohan Port, the shortest transit time is only 15 days, 20 days faster than the traditional means of sea transportation.

The application of digital documents is also increasing. The pilot “one-document coverage mechanism” has been introduced to sea-rail intermodal trains and China-Vietnam and China-Laos freight trains, expanding its coverage to Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, and Laos. Currently, a total of 9,613 documents have been issued, with a total value of $555 million. 

Besides, the “one-container coverage mechanism” has been implemented extensively. The volume of railway TEUs transferred to ships has exceeded 82,000, while the volume of maritime TEUs transferred to trains has surpassed 46,000. This approach leads to a cost reduction of around $1,000 per container.

The building of information exchange platforms is accelerating. For instance, over 800,000 pieces of data on container and vessel movements have been shared with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, extending information about international supply chain from China to the world.

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