Cargo transportation from China by road. How is it done?
- Is it possible to transport cargo directly from China in one vehicle without transshipment en route?
- How predictable are road transport patterns from China?
- What other specific difficulties are there in this freight market?
- Due to the significant risk of delays, are there any specific pricing for services of cargo delivery from China by road?
- How can I minimize delays on the Chinese border?
- Who determines the interaction with the Chinese carrier?
Pavel Kirichenko, Head of the Customer Department
Is it possible to transport cargo directly from China in one vehicle without transshipment en route?
We used to perform such transportation with entry into the interior of China before the COVID-19 pandemic. After the PRC borders were closed to all foreign carriers, the pattern of trucking from China is as follows.
1) The Chinese carrier picks up the cargo from the shipper, drives it to the border crossing point and unloads it in a specially equipped customs area.
2) Our vehicle enters this zone, leaves the semitrailer, the tractor returns to the Russian side, waiting for a signal from the Chinese side that the semitrailer is loaded. Under normal circumstances, this takes 1-2 days.
3) After loading the semi-trailer, the tractor again enters the customs zone and picks up the semi-trailer. The shipping documents from the Chinese side are in the semi-trailer with the cargo.
How predictable are road transport patterns from China?
Unfortunately, the market for road freight shipments from China is now very unstable in terms of controlling delivery times and costs. China's zero tolerance policy for the COVID-19 virus means that any border crossing, loading and unloading terminal, or sending company can be quarantined for one day if an infected employee is found there. And cargo and semitrailers in such an area will usually remain there until the quarantine is lifted.
Quarantine periods are not announced in advance, and the Chinese side does not provide compensation for cargo delays - it is considered a force majeure event. Cargoes and rolling stock can be stuck in the quarantine zone for months.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the capacity of border crossings has decreased by about fourfold, and today it is up to 100 cars per day, with an average of 60-70 cars. Due to abrupt closure of one of the border crossings, cargo flow is redistributed to the remaining working crossings, which further increases their workload and waiting time.
What other specific difficulties are there in this freight market?
Each province of China independently decides how to regulate the operation of border crossings. Therefore, each border crossing point has its own rules for the organization of entry, which are also subject to change. There are no uniform rules of border crossing.
Sometimes there is a requirement from the Chinese side (most often at the border crossing points of China with Kazakhstan) to use only isothermal and refrigerated semi-trailers, because there is no possibility of effective disinfection of tent semi-trailers. Imports into China are also limited in terms of types of cargo, certain classifications can be imported only through certain border crossing points.
Another peculiarity of the transport market to/from China is the control by local businesses and administrations of queues of vehicles entering loading zones from the Russian Federation. It is clear that the interests of local (Far Eastern, Transbaikal and Kazakhstani) carriers are better respected due to closer business ties. Western "outsiders" are not very welcome there; they have great difficulties with queuing for loading, going through the required procedures, and even with the safety of vehicles, cargoes, and drivers.
Due to the significant risk of delays, are there any specific pricing for services of cargo delivery from China by road?
At the stage of quoting rates to our customers, we lay down a standard waiting time for arrival at a particular border, based on the current situation, trying to be fixed for no more than a month, as the situation is changing all the time. We negotiate the terms of downtime due to the sender/consignee/freight forwarder's fault so that we can share the costs later, if their occurrence depends neither on us directly, nor on our contractor/agent. In conditions of uncertainty, regular customers are often accommodating, agreeing on such additional costs and being flexible in their perception of risks and abnormal situations.
It is more difficult with customers who are just beginning to enter this market. Accustomed to transportation with transparent, highly competitive pricing, clear delivery terms, payment deferrals and other conditions, such customers do not always understand the norms that have already taken shape in the relatively new Chinese direction for road transport.
How can I minimize delays on the Chinese border?
It is impossible in principle to predict quarantine closures of border crossings - this risk is not minimized by any measures.
To reduce waiting times at the border, global logistics companies need to have their representatives on the ground, capable of defending the company's interests in local business circles and administrations. Against the backdrop of the growing problem today in the Far Eastern market (Zabaikalsk and on the Sino-Kazakh border), many offers of such mediation have appeared from people who in fact turn out to be incapable of resolving issues that arise. We, for example, had to change several such intermediaries before we found really good representatives in the Trans-Baikal and Primorsky Territories who have weight in the local business environment and effectively protect our interests as official company employees.
Who determines the interaction with the Chinese carrier?
We, and the level of this interaction is extremely important, because the Chinese carrier actually does half of the work. Considering that COVID measures mean that it is impossible to control the loading process by our driver, who receives the loaded trailer already with a seal, our Chinese contractor must be as reliable and trustworthy as possible. He is our eyes and ears in a closed country and a very important component of the final result of delivering the cargo safely to the recipient.
We have a procedure for checking suppliers, including for China, and there is always a choice of three or four operating carriers, which allows us to develop relationships with them, be competitive on prices for domestic China logistics and constantly improve the level of service for our customers.