DB Schenker Pioneers New Combination of Rail-Road-Air Shipping

The Deutsche Bahn subsidiary has shipped a large consignment of cell phone components between China and Brazil via Europe. What makes this project so unique is the combination of rail, road and air carriage. This logistics masterpiece could kick-off a new mode of transporting goods from the Far East to the eastern parts of South America.

Loading of a pallet filled with cell phone components into a LAN Cargo Triple Seven freighter at FRA  /  source: DB Schenker
Loading of a pallet filled with cell phone components into a LAN Cargo Triple Seven freighter at FRA / source: DB Schenker

According to Gerhard Felser, responsible DB Schenker spokesman at Frankfurt, the project is of an experimental nature and just a pilot one. “The shipper had asked us to give this so far unique mode of multi-modal transport a try as an alternative to pure air freight or ocean freight,” he explains. The result: “Our customer told us that he’s very pleased with the outcome,” states Felser. That’s why the DB Schenker manager does not exclude this tri-modal transport could be a door opener for more to come.

24 days versus….
It was the first time ever that the logistics giant has managed combined transportation by rail, road and air across three continents. The journey of the cell phone parts started in central China located Chongqing and went by train across the Eurasian land bridge to Duisburg in Germany, a rail link that’s been established meanwhile and served twice a week by DB Schenker. The 10,124 kilometer trip from Chongqing via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland to Duisburg took 17 days. After their arrival at Duisburg, the goods were trucked to 250 kilometer distant Rhine-Main Airport where they were labeled, X-rayed and re-packed within DB Schenker’s own warehouse at Frankfurt’s CargoCity South. Once done, they were loaded aboard a Boeing 777 freighter operated by LAN Cargo and flown off to Viracopos airport near Sao Paulo. Upon arrival, the local DB Schenker staff customs cleared the goods and handed them over to a forwarding agent that picked them up by order of the final Brazilian consignee. Assembling the components and marketing the finished cellular phones rounded off the process.  

…55 days from door to door
All together the entire transport took 24 days to make its way from the Chinese producer of the components to the Brazilian assembler of the cellular phones. That’s less than half the time it would have needed to send the 21 tons on board a vessel from China to the port of Santos at the Atlantic coast of Brazil. “The alternative by ocean would have taken between 50 to 55 days,” confirms communications manager Peter Sauer of DB Schenker Logistics. Faster transports lead to less capital commitment, he adds. Therefore, this tri-modal option of forwarding goods from Far East to South America might develop into a realistic alternative to pure ocean freight. "This first successful shipment combining rail, road and air freight has shown the growth potential of multimodal logistics," said Daniel Wieland, Head of Rail Logistics & Forwarding at DB Schenker Logistics. Thomas Mack, Head of Global Air Freight at DB Schenker, added: "We are proud to pioneer this interesting transportation option for the market in Latin America."

LAN Cargo takes care of the rest
Asked about possible risks cargo trains running through Russia might be faced due to the political tensions between Moscow and the west over the Ukraine, DB Schenker spokesman Felser confirms that there are no disturbances. “Our Eurasian trains run like clockwork despite the current political rift,” he says.
And why was LAN Cargo chosen by DB Schenker to fly the consignment from Rhine-Main to Viracopos? “Because they are operating freighter aircraft on this route, their flight schedule matched our time requirements, and LAN Cargo is one of our preferred carriers that we constantly utilize,” explains Peter Sauer.
Heiner Siegmund

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