Photo: © Andrianocz | Dreamstime.com

China and Russia are continuing to expand their Arctic container shipping links.

They have launched a sea-rail service, Arctic Express No 1, which will involve railing containers from Moscow to Archangel, the only port in north-western Russia. From there, containerships will move the goods to China through the Arctic Ocean.

This service, covering around 13,000 km over 20-25 days, is expected to be one week faster than the Northern Sea Route (NSR).

China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui, said on Friday the economic and trade ties between the two countries had stayed resilient. And diplomatic ties had strengthened amid the sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

In 2023, trade between Russia and China was just over $240bn, exceeding the target of $200bn. In the first five months of this year, it grew 3% year on year, to nearly $97bn.

Mr Zhang said: “The infrastructure in our countries is inadequate to fully meet our growing logistics and transportation needs, and it’s imperative to open new logistics channels to further expand Sino-Russian economic and trade cooperation.

“China has always advocated the peaceful development of the Arctic, and the creation of Arctic shipping routes. Over the past decade, the leaders of China and Russia have continued to pay attention to the development of Arctic shipping routes, and the governments have established mechanisms to explore Arctic cooperation.”

Referring to Yangpu Newnew Shipping’s launch of the first regular container shipping service between China and the Russian part of the Arctic Ocean last July, Mr Zhang said 14 round-trips have been completed since then.

The ambassador continued: “Sea-rail intermodal transport links and cooperation between Russia and China in shipbuilding will effectively promote bilateral trade, investment and technological innovation, and inject new meaning into the development of the ‘Ice Silk Road’.”

The latest move comes after Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom, signed an agreement with Yangpu Newnew last month, pledging to operate routes through the NSR and to build up to five ice-breaking box ships. Rosatom is targeting to move at least 50m tonnes of cargo through the NSR this year.


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