Frankfurt / Main, July 9, 2014. “The positive result of the past few months is that, in spite of numerous caesuras in the political, financial, and economic framework, a considerable degree of stability was upheld in East-West rail traffics. This shows once again that the CIS member states are rightly counted among the most promising markets for rail freight forwarders and operators” – Hans Reinhard, President of GETO, the Association of European Trans-Siberian Operators and Forwarders, strikes this positive balance at GETO’s 2014 general assembly in Frankfurt/Main in May. The brisk development of container block train traffics between Europe and China, he said, also proved that looking to the East has solid perspectives for rail service providers. Yet he criticized that there are too few efforts on the side of the railways participating in the Euro-Asian traffics to make attractive offers for open trains to be loaded with single containers or container groups from different companies. “In trade relations with the CIS, Mongolia, and China, too, an essential part is realized by SMEs – but for them, company block trains are not an option. Those who regard Euro-Asian rail traffic as a concert of the greats only, give away huge potential for development”, the GETO President said. The railway ferries from Sassnitz on the island of Rügen, where, apart from container block trains, companies also have the option to ship single wagons, serve as exemplary models here. Addressing the railway companies, the GETO general assembly demanded again improvements also for trains that are open and attractive to as wide a clientele as possible especially from the SME economy. “In this demand we will not relent, especially since Russian Railways President Yakunin announced as one aim that at least one third of the international transit traffics through Russia be open also to small and medium sized enterprises”, Reinhard reminded the assembly. Yet GETO companies are prepared to do more than utter their demands: They aim at jointly developing appropriate offers, mutually benefiting from experiences. Thus, to give an example, Far East Land Bridge Co. Ltd. (FELB), one of the leading providers of container block trains from China to Europe, and InterRail Service GmbH (IRS) as the operator of the Ostwind-Westwind container block train traffic, want to launch an appropriate product with Brest as the interface.
GETO, an interest group of mainly medium sized forwarders and operators active in East-West rail traffics, has, over the last years, increased in membership and impact, which the continually growing interest in the CIS rail freight market and especially in rail-supported transports between Asia and Europe goes to prove. “We as SMEs can add emphasis to our demands for competitive rates, greater cost transparency and lower costs, a broader implementation of through way bills, increased use of electronic data exchange to expedite container handling, and simplified customs procedures in Euro-Asian rail transports. We will intensify our joint efforts in this respect”, announced Reinhard.
Apart from the trans-Siberia transport focus, GETO has for some years already been dealing with general issues concerning East-West rail traffics to Central Asia and the Far East. GETO is a member of CCTT, the Coordinating Council on Transsiberian Transportation in Moscow that is chaired by Russian Railways AG President Vladimir Yakunin. Werner Albert, Honorary President of GETO, has been CCTT Vice Chairman since it was founded in the 1990s, and is actively involved in its development.
This year’s GETO general assembly admitted the following new members: Fiege Logistics (Switzerland) Ltd., the German GEFCO, and VTG Rail Logistics GmbH.
In the fiscal year that has just ended, a MoU on cooperation was signed with CIT (Comité International des transports ferroviaires). As a new Member of the GETO Board, Harm Sievers, Managing Director of Baltic Port Rail Mukran GmbH, was elected. “Geographically, as well as from the point of view of infrastructure, Mukran is an important interface in East-West traffic. I am glad to be able to contribute our long years of expertise to GETO”, said Harm Sievers after the election.
On the agenda of the general assembly was an analysis of the railway market in the CIS; growth stimuli and competition issues for Euro-Asian container transport via rail were discussed. The situation on the rolling stock market was regarded as continuing to be relatively relaxed. The inhibiting effects of the policy of sanctions against Russia were seen as risks. Negative impacts on East-West rail traffic were registered, caused by the devaluation of the Russian Ruble by 20 % at the turn of the year, weak domestic economic activity, sinking Russian demand for imports, and a stronger orientation of Russia towards the Asia-Pacific region in recent times. Yet the fact that Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries on the route from Western Europe to the Far East are interested in growing earnings from transit tariffs still supported Euro-Asian rail traffics. Thus, even in economically weaker phases, there were investments in the appropriate infrastructure. As the biggest investment planned in the Euro-Asian railway sector for the near future, the modernization of the Siberian Railway Magistral and the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM) with an investment volume of circa 562 billion Rubles was cited. The assembly acknowledged as further supporting factors for the rail traffics along the Euro-Asian land bridge: the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the willingness of numerous emergent Chinese provinces to invest and thus support rail traffic with Europe, shorter transit times as well as progress concerning a more long-term oriented and more flexible tariff policy.