Far East Land Bridge – Bridging East and West
Far East Land Bridge represents an ambitious logistics project that provides a vital route for cargo, but this is only the beginning.
FELB (Far East Land Bridge) is an internationally active railway operator offering optimal rail logistics in and between Europe, Russia, and Asia along the Trans-Siberianrailway line. The goal of the logistics company is to sustainably link the European and Asian economies.
Since 2007, the company, which has main offices in Vienna and Shanghai, has been continuously developing its portfolio of services, routes, and product groups. From its foundation in 2007, FELB has grown to offer a full suite of logistics services.
Flexibility is key
“If you are active in the logistics sector, we offer a full range of different services the market is asking for,” says Uwe Leuschner, FELB’s CEO.
While these services are an important part of FELB’s offering, the route is also a vital piece of infrastructure, and one Leuschner believes should be protected and invested in.
“Many of my colleagues and I wish that this would be more of an investment market regarding infrastructural investment,” he admits. “Every year we are facing a lot of different challenges. We are working across both the Asian and European markets, facing the challenges on both sides.”
FELB’s responsibilities include following or monitoring approximately 40,000 businesses, carriers, infrastructural companies, and other operators.
“Our operator activities include organising certain necessary services and following all the logistics trends,” Leuschner says.
These are activities that FELB has been engaged in since it commenced its first pilot shipments in 2007, following a special agreement with its initial Russian partner, TransContainer. Since then, FELB has grown and purchased over 2,600 containers, with the number of train departures increasing from one a week to six.
It has also established two special train operating centres, its Block-Train Centres (BTC), one in Asia and one in Europe. All of this is operated by over 100 employees who ensure efficient operations and sale of services. As an international organisation, FELB manages offices in China and Russia, strategically located along its entire route, to complete the system around the railway connection.
But while a lot of the challenges FELB negotiates on a day-to-day basis are evergreen, some are growing in significance.
“Emission-free transportation is not a new thing, but actually it is a far more pressing challenge today,” Leuschner says.
“Not only is there the shift in container transport to emission-zero, but there is also the pressure to offer services around that business. We need to establish additional services that are only possible via digitalisation and improving networks and cooperation between our partners.”
To address the changing needs of the industry, FELB is engaged in a process of constant listening and improvement. “Offering borderless solutions and thinking ahead – that are our tasks. We are very interested in improving our services and every year we find areas to build on,” Leuschner points out. “In the last few weeks in our core business and our side businesses, we have been organising fresh terminals with over 10,000 km of track laid. We are constantly looking for emergent solutions, but we ensure that these solutions are always client-centred.”
Leuschner emphasises that this client-centred approach is crucial to the business.
“That’s very important because obviously, clients have very strong feelings regarding their cargo,” he insists. “There are a lot of challenges but we are using them to enlarge our service portfolio more and more.”
Of course, this process would be impossible without a wealth of talent and dedication on the part of FELB’s staff, a resource that Leuschner values deeply.
“Our success in each market depends on the human part of our capital,” he says. “You need people who know what they are doing, and which tools and IT solutions we’re using. Our IT system is the result of our people applying their combined know-how and knowledge.”
FELB’s team is a multinational one, including staff from 15 different countries. With all these different cultures, backgrounds, and even languages, communication is very important to the business.
“Clear communication lines are critical between staff and between staff and clients,” Leuschner says. “Communication is essential to improving services and understanding the conditions your clients are working under.”
Leuschner also emphasises how important it is to bring new talent into the company.
“It is important to renew the staff and invite and hire younger people to join us,” he says. “Our longer-term employees can then hand over their experience as well as the international understanding that allows us to operate over such a broad geographic footprint. We learn using video conferences or online communication. Even years before the pandemic communication has been the basic foundation of our company.”
From that foundation, FELB aims to build a piece of logistics infrastructure that will stand through the ages.
“The future is our first priority,” Leuschner tells us. “We’re planning for 2022, 2023, 2024. We’re interested in being a part of the modern investment market. We are investing more and more in container transport and improving our IT systems. We’re looking for environmental solutions and how we can improve over the next few years while serving markets not only in Europe but further afield in markets such as China.”
These improvements include offering CO2 certification for clients so that they can see what emissions are produced for each transported container while also suggesting ways that can be improved. A paperless documentation process is also well underway. Next year FELB will be celebrating its 15th anniversary, and Leuschner sees this as a challenge to go even further than it has already.
“We’re interested in opening communications with corporations and creating or founding new associations on the global stage,” he says. “It’s a big challenge but we know it is our responsibility to go forward and invest and find solutions for the market.”