On June 28th, the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok was the venue of the Railway for Poland – Railway for Podlaskie economic seminar. The event was attended by logistics and transport experts, representatives of business, science and public authorities.
Professor Katarzyna Czerewacz-Filipowicz from the Faculty of Management Engineering at the Białystok University of Technology gave a speech about the place and role of the Podlaskie Voivodeship on the New Silk Road.
“It is very important that we discuss issues related to the development of Podlaskie. The more people voice their opinion in the discussion, the more opportunities there are to find the right solutions. In her speech, she recalled that the experts of the Eurasian Development Bank compared our province to Khorgos, the largest dry port located on the route of the Belt and Road initiative.
Professor Czerewacz-Filipowicz described the external factors influencing the participation of Podlaskie in the Belt and Road Initiative and the internal factors shaping the place and role of Podlaskie in this undertaking. The former included China’s growing position in trade with the European Union, changes in the transit of goods caused by the coronavirus pandemic, rising international transport costs, the increasing volume of rail freight between Europe and Asia, and the fact that most rail transport between China and the European Union takes place along corridors through the Eurasian Economic Union. Among the latter, she mentioned: the geographical location of Podlaskie, the technical condition and distribution of the rail and road network, integration with transcontinental transport corridors, the emergence of a strong intermodal operator, and the level of qualifications and availability of staff.
Andrzej Hanusik from the University of Economics in Katowice presented the results of a survey conducted among Polish entrepreneurs on Poland’s place in the New Silk Road Initiative. The first question was about barriers and their relevance.
“Barriers can be divided into three main groups: infrastructure – railways, transhipment, ports; cooperation with public administration, staff competence and differences in business culture.”
The research was a starting point to the establishment of the statutory objectives of a potential integrator of the logistics community. Among the most important goals set for such an entity, entrepreneurs mention supporting legislative activities, strengthening activities directed at the development of logistics and warehousing infrastructure and providing information about the New Silk Road.
Teodor Kula and Bartosz Baca from the Polish Supply Management Leaders presented the common position of the Polish logistics sector related to the Belt and Road initiative.
“We will work to promote the Polish option in order to increase the flow of goods through our country. We are committed to ensuring that Poland does not remain just a transit country, so we will support activities aimed at building logistics hubs and transshipment centres in our country. We will initiate a series of coordinated activities linking business, local government administration, state administration and state owned companies in order to jointly build a strong position for Poland on the New Silk Road,” – said Teodor Kula, member of the board of Polish Supply Management Leaders, presenting the idea behind the “Railway for Poland” project.
Panel discussion “Podlaskie region on the New Silk Road”
The second part of the seminar was devoted to a panel discussion titled “Podlaskie Voivodeship on the New Silk Road“, which was attended by:
– Mariusz Dąbrowski, Director of the Investor Assistance and Economic Promotion Office, Podlaskie Voivodeship Marshal’s Office, – Joanna Rutkowska, Head of Public Affairs, MSL Group, – Dariusz Stefański, President of the Board, PCC Intermodal S.A., – Barbara Wójcik, Deputy Director for Commercial Affairs, Adampol S.A., – moderator – Jakub Jakóbowski, Centre for Eastern Studies.
Mariusz Dąbrowski, speaking about the potential of the Podlaskie Voivodeship in terms of the development of the transport-forwarding-logistics (TFL) industry, highlighted historical conditions and the contemporary role of the Marshal’s Office.
“We are not new to rail connections in Europe. In 1862 the Warsaw-Petersburg Railway was opened, followed by the Brzesko-Grajewo Railway 11 years later. Białystok became a railway junction. Later there was a railway in the direction of Vawkavysk and Baranovichi. We already were an important player in the past and would like to be one again.
“As the Marshal’s Office we are trying to promote our region, but there are many barriers to overcome. A window of opportunity has opened up for us and if we do not do this quickly, other regions of Poland and Europe may take our place. We cannot impose anything on municipalities, but we can channel European funds to develop infrastructure and utilities. We try to support foreign investors and entities that approach us with questions. What I would most like to see is a greater pace of work in the implementation of projects.
Dariusz Stefański, President of the Board of PCC Intermodal talked about the opportunities for the development of the TFL sector in the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
“How much we earn depends primarily on us. I believe in the idea of a Polish logistics hub. We have focused on shipments from Japan and Korea. We do not hide the fact that Podlaskie is a place that has a chance to take a piece of this cake. In a few years’ time, the volume of goods transported from the Far East to Europe and back will reach several million TEU. Neither Brest-Małaszewicze nor any other crossing will have a monopoly on these services. Podlaskie, with its two border crossings, has a chance to take over around 10-15% of the total volume on the Far East-Europe and Europe-Far East routes in the relatively short term. How we use this opportunity depends on how quickly we complete basic infrastructure investments and how quickly logistics companies will be able to offer their services in the Podlaskie region.”
“There is a large group of TFL companies that know that this is the time for Podlaskie and that it would be good to invest here. The question is whether Podlaskie is ready and whether Podlaskie wants the TFL industry to set its anchor in the region for longer. Can you count on the support of both local authorities and the region as a whole to make the TFL industry a driving force for the region’s development? The TFL industry is followed by other industries. Without the logistics industry, it is difficult to count on representatives of other businesses wanting to invest in the region.”
“We are now doing everything to invest in Sokółka. We only deal with container logistics. We are convinced that this is a very good place to invest. Business is ready to invest, the question is whether the region is ready to receive these investments.”
Barbara Wójcik, Deputy Director for Commercial Affairs, Adampol S.A., added:
PSML’s initiative is extremely valuable. There is enough room for all those who are interested in entering the TFL market. Chinese partners expect a single entity with which they can discuss any and all issues. I appeal to everyone to unite in this dialogue.”
“We could fight for synergy. It would be good to be able to provide services in Małaszewicze and at border crossings located in Podlaskie Voivodship. It is not always the case that a single terminal has the sufficient time slots to take in enough container trains enter to form the next block train and send it on to the next destination.”
Joanna Rutkowska, Head of Public Affairs, MSL Group talked about the possible synergy between road and rail transport.
“I am glad that Podlaskie is ready to play the role of a logistics hub. Poland is ranked 17th in the World Bank’s logistic attractiveness ranking. Problems are raised in relation to handling times, lack of sufficient infrastructure. Our location is ideal and we could definitely make better use of it. We are the leader in road transport and Polish trucks are present in the furthest corners of the world.”
“We can talk about synergies between road and rail transport. Different types of goods require different types of transport and give rise to competition for these transports. In the eastern market, the Kazakh, Belarusian and Russian companies have taken the lead. There are barriers in the form of permits which determine transport quotas. Despite this, the eastern direction is still attractive for Polish carriers”
The organiser of the economic seminar Railway for Poland – Railway for Podlaskie was Podlaskie Voivodeship Marshal’s Office and the Polish Supply Management Leaders Association.