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Blockchain powers China-Europe rail trade

Blockchain is being used to boost trade through the China-Europe train routes, which have contributed significantly to lowering logistics costs and served as a lifeline stabilizing global trade amid the pandemic.

On April 1 at the Chengdu International Railway Port, a major port in southwest China's Sichuan Province for China-Europe cargo trains, a new version of the blockchain-powered platform Sino-Europe Trade Link 2.0 was put into operation by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

The updated platform, which allows enterprises to raise funds directly from the bank, will lower costs and speed up the cash flows of relevant foreign trade companies.

Riding the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013, the China-Europe freight train service has connected over 60 domestic cities with major European countries.

Wang Haiyang, general manager of the Chengdu branch of logistics company Shenzhen Neptune Logistics Co., Ltd, displayed a waybill of the company in 2007. On it, there were over 20 stamps plus a jumble of handwritten notes in different languages.

He recalled how the cargo -- four tonnes of glass -- was transported from Qingdao, a major port city in east China's Shandong Province, to Riga, the capital city of Latvia, over a period of 36 days.

"Logistics enterprises back then had to go to the railway station to pick up the waybill before departure and take it to customs for inspection and to have it sealed. After that, the waybill would be kept by the driver and be checked by every country along the route. That's why there are so many stamps and signatures on it," he said.

"Even after arrival, it took us another three days to go through all the clearance procedures and have the delivery accepted," said Wang. "Now the China-Europe train only takes about a third of the time."

The tall order was made possible via a basket of innovations China has made to boost the service. A conspicuous improvement was the intermodal transport document.


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