Shipping coal on the Elbe may be an option in case of closures on the railway line to Germany.
Czech freight rail carrier CD Cargo and its business partner are testing a new way to transport hard coal from Australia to customers in the Ostrava region. The cargo is now transshipped to trains in the Czech port of Děčín instead of one of the European ports.
With the gradual decline in Czech producer OKD’s mining operations, hard coal is increasingly being imported from various parts of the world. In addition to Polish shafts, overseas hard coal also plays a major role, arriving at a number of European ports. “With our partners, we mostly transport black coal from the Polish ports of Gdańsk and Szczecin and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, but the Slovenian port of Koper or the Croatian port of Rijeka/Bakar are no exception,” says Tomáš Tóth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CD Cargo.
This is a new way of using two different modes of transport as well as an attempt to revive the port of Decin. The transshipment of 1,300 tonnes of coal brought from Rotterdam aboard the Bohemia began today in the port of Decin. The Bohemia sailed on the Rhine, the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe.
A test in case of closures along the Elbe
Compared to transport by train from Rotterdam, the new method is slower but may prove cheaper. CD Cargo has yet another reason to examine this means: the limited transport capacity on the railway line between Germany and the Czech Republic could cause problems. Czech and German providers of railway infrastructure, Sprava zeleznic and DB Netz, Správa železnic and DB Netz, are planning yet another series of closures which will restrict traffic. Freight carriers in particular have long pointed out that one capacity crossing to Germany is not enough and are pushing for the upgrading of other railway lines to the German border.
Hard coking coal is not intended for heating or power generation. It is metallurgical coking coal, with coke being the essential raw material for the production of crude iron and subsequently steel. In the steel industry, hard coal does not yet have a full-fledged substitute. “Even the ambitious goals of the ‘green deal’ can only be met through a range of investments using steel – new decentralized energy sources, energy efficient buildings, electric mobility and more. Steel is also probably the only 100% recyclable material, and the railways are active in transporting this recyclate (scrap iron),” said Tóth.
“Until now, we have transported coal to our customers by rail directly from Rotterdam. This is the first attempt to partially replace the railway stretch between Decin and Bad Schandau, which is scheduled for closures this year, and a possible closure in the port itself. 1,300 tonnes isn’t much for a corridor train, but it’s a test. We will sit down with our business partner and evaluate the technology and the actual economics of the operation. It will definitely not be mainstream, but a complementary option to increase the capacity of our services. It could be an interesting functional alternative,” Tóth added.