Under the operation of freighter Bai Zhaoxin, cranes are busy reloading containers of the China-Europe freight trains from the broad railway gauge to the standard gauge at the Alataw Pass, a primary land port on the China-Kazakhstan border in far western Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
This transferring process is necessary as the trains travel on broad gauge tracks mostly used in European and Central Asian countries before entering China, where standard gauge tracks are used, Bai said. The trains, loaded with cargo including vehicles and auto parts, household appliances and daily commodities, arrive at the station from different parts of China before embarking on their journey to Europe. It is also the first stop for imported goods such as cotton yarn and wood, chemical and electronic goods that entered Chinese market.
In 2022, a total of 6,211 China-Europe freight trains left and entered China via the port, according to local custom. As of Nov 3, 223.84 million tons of goods passed through the port, with the trade volume reached 318.33 billion yuan ($43.61 billion).
This strategic port faces some unique challenges, as it experiences over 180 days of gale-force winds each year.
In the past, such conditions would have made outdoor operations nearly impossible, Bai said, adding that, thanks to upgrades of the port's facility, the situation has drastically improved.
Now with the indoor reload depots, cargo on the China-Europe freight trains can now be seamlessly transferred at the port every day.
In 2017, the port could load around 700 to 750 containers per day, and now the daily reloading capacity has increased to nearly 950 containers, Bai said.
"Every day, a multitude of containers passes through my hands at the Alataw Pass, and I feel honored to act as a gatekeeper of the vital BRI route," he said.
The Alataw pass land port is not just a transit point; it plays a vital role in promoting trade and economic cooperation between China and Europe, said Li Jianglin, vice-mayor of the border city Alashankou.
As the largest land port in Xinjiang and an important energy resource channel, Alataw Pass is the gateway with the shortest distance, fastest transit time and lowest freight cost on the Silk Road Economic Belt, Li said.