One of New Silk Road Network’s primary goals is our sincere commitment towards the contribution and preservations of our multifarious knowledge hub. Our knowledge hub plays a critical role in sustaining member engagement, myth-busting and creating a space for exchanging information regarding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its possible impacts on the logistics industry. Every year, during our networking events, we spare some time to collectively exchange expertise on the New Silk Road.
This year, for our Regional Meet-Up, hosted from 15th to 17th November 2021, we organized a special ‘field trip’ along with interesting talks that offered unique perspectives on the development of the BRI. In collaboration with NSRN’s partner Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven JadeWeserPort Marketing GmbH & Co. KG., we had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the Port of Wilhelmshaven and take a closer look at the port’s functions, capabilities, and capacities. A fascinated set of attendees braved the cold winds of the port and hopped off the bus at the end of the tour to get a closer look at container ships docking at the deep seaport.
After the tour of the Port of Wilhelmshaven, the attendees arrived at a restaurant for two presentations. The first presentation, titled ‘BRI: Provocations, Facts, Conclusions’, was presented by erstwhile Chief Economist of Bremer Landesbank, Mr Folker Hellmeyer. Mr Hellmeyer has had a distinguished career as an economist in Germany and is well renowned and respected in his field. He actively contributes to debates and discussions regarding economic reforms and offers his expertise through public lectures and presentations. The second presentation on ‘Wilhelmshaven Freight Village and Container Terminal’ was presented by Mr Ingo Meidinger, Director of Sales at JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven. Mr. Meidinger’s presentation detailed the nuances of the Port of Wilhelmshaven, its functions and its critical role as Germany’s only deep seaport.
Debunking myths about the BRI
The first presentation by Mr. Folker Hellmeyer approached the topic of BRI through a slightly peculiar path that surprised the listeners who were from the logistics and freight forwarding industry. It questioned the deep-seated biases people have regarding this Chinese initiative and Western powers' negative connotations attached to it. The presentation began with looking at the reactions and perceptions of Germany’s leading economic advisers after the inauguration of the BRI, which was largely negative.
Mr Hellmeyer challenges this negative reaction in his presentation by raising some important questions about Western governments’ skewed ethics and morality regarding business and profiteering. At the same time, by presenting facts and figures, he proves the need to acknowledge China’s growing economic status and the urgent necessity for fruitful collaboration through the BRI. To give a successful instance of a BRI project, Mr. Hellmeyer points towards developing the Piraeus Port in Greece. The Grecian economy has suffered massively during the 2007-2008 global economic crisis, requiring large bailouts by IMF and the EU to prevent insolvency. The aftereffects of the crisis sustained for years. However, the construction of the Chinese led Port of Piraeus stimulated the economy in the region, and consequently provided jobs to the locals.
Mr Hellmeyer succinctly argues that there is a need for the Global West to acknowledge and collaborate with the BRI project, which in essence will contribute to global infrastructure development and connectivity, forming the foundation for further economic development, benefitting all participating nations in the long-term scale. Finally, the presentation concluded with an interesting Q&A session, where the attendees’ asked questions regarding the prospects of BRI in logistics and its developments in the years to come.
Wilhelmshaven: A Growing New Silk Road Hub
Mr. Ingo Meidinger’s following presentation was tailored for our audience of freight forwarders interested in knowing more about the Port of Wilhelmshaven’s growing presence in Germany and its connections with Chinese logistics hubs. Mr. Meidinger began by giving a brief history and the necessity for this deep seaport. He highlighted the various locations within the port through site visuals, such as the container terminal, rail terminals, warehouses, and other relevant facilities.
In the second part of the presentation, Mr. Meidinger highlighted their upcoming China Logistics-Wilhelmshaven Logistics centre, which will welcome collaborations between Chinese logistics companies and German ones. Port of Wilhelmshaven is also associated with 2M and Ocean Alliance, having strong connections with ports through Europe and globally. Furthermore, it has highly networked road connections and rail connections within Europe. In July 2021, Wilhelmshaven actively became a part of the Iron Silk Road (Rail connections with China). Connections between Anhui Province and Lower Saxony are now established, with monthly trains running between Hefei and Wilhelmshaven. The transit time is about 15-17 days, with attractive rates in today’s spot market.
The two presentations hosted during the Regional Meet-Up this month gave the attendees a theoretical and practical insight into the effects of the BRI. In Mr. Hellmeyer’s presentation, our attendees received a glimpse of the BRI project from an economic and political viewpoint, and its global implications. Whereas, in Mr. Meidinger’s presentation, the attendees witnessed the lucrative nature of the growing connections with China. We are most thankful for the contributions of the two presenters for initiating valuable discussion amongst our members and partners.