European supply chains mapped out in one overview

The supply chains in Europe are set to change considerably in the years ahead. The strongest economic growth can be found in the eastern part of Europe. New logistics hubs are emerging in Central Europe and more goods flows from Asia will travel via the Black Sea or, as land freight, via the Trans-Siberian rail route. These developments are clearly visible on the European supply chain map which has been co-produced by Buck Consultants and Supply Chain Movement.

By Martijn Lofvers

While the countries with Europe’s highest living standards are currently still in the West, those showing the most growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are predominantly in Eastern Europe. In the past five years, for example, Russia’s GDP has increased by a total of 87 percent and the overall figure is forecast to be 54 percent for the period up to and including 2017. This growth is resulting in a (strong) increase in demand for consumer products, many of which arrive in the country in freight containers through Europe’s fastest-growing sea ports, namely Saint Petersburg on the Baltic Sea and Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

This map of Europe shows the main manufacturing locations owned by the world’s Top 100 brands according to the relevant companies’ official sources. It is already clear to see that the number of factories in Central and Eastern Europe is increasing due to the economic growth there.

New logistics clusters

The sea ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp and Bremen still lead the way in terms of the container volumes they handle. The largest logistics regions are centred around them, as well as around Paris and London, mainly thanks to the large, wealthy populations.

New logistics clusters are emerging as follows: in Poland, around Gdansk, between Poznan and Lodz, and in Silesia; between Brno in the Czech Republic and Bratislava in Slovakia; around Trieste on the Adriatic Sea; and around Izmir in Turkey. Potential distribution hubs in the year 2020 could be Minsk, Kiev, Bucharest and Belgrade.

In addition to Novorossiysk, other sea ports demonstrating notable growth are Valencia, Malta and Istanbul. Istanbul, for instance, is benefiting from Turkey’s booming economy and the associated increasing demand for consumer products.

The rise of these new gateways to Europe is at the expense of the ports between Le Havre and Hamburg. In 2005, 60 percent of all containers from Asia arrived in Europe through ports on the North Sea; by 2011, this volume had dropped to below 50 percent, although at an absolute growth rate of 18 percent. The Port of Rotterdam has extended its services by strengthening its collaboration with terminals further inland, such as by providing an overview of their facilities on the Inland Links website.

Trans-Siberian railway

The massive economic growth in Russia, which has many ‘million-plus’ cities scattered throughout the vast country, is forcing companies to consider different distribution routes. In addition to the traditional land route from Western Europe to Moscow, shipments via the ports of Saint Petersburg and Novorossiysk represent interesting alternatives, especially since the latter route is 2,400 kilometres shorter.

Another up-and-coming option is that of sea freight from Shanghai to Vladivostok and then via the Trans-Siberian railway to Russia. This route is 11,100 kilometres and takes just 15 days although it does entail a number of technical and administrative hurdles. In comparison, a container from Shanghai spends 35 days travelling the 19,000 kilometres to Rotterdam, followed by a further 2,500 kilometres of land transport before reaching Moscow.


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