A SCANDINAVIAN consortium is pressing ahead this week with a bold new plan to send Norwegian salmon across Russia to China by rail.
The first container shipments are expected to be on their way within the next two months.
The plan is going ahead despite a recent unexplained decision by Russia to send back two airfreight consignments of Norwegian salmon.
The new mode of transport has been made possible because in the past month Russia has lifted a ban on the transit traffic of a whole range of perishable products, including fish that were previously sanctioned.
Russia has opened a special department to oversee transit traffic, meaning that interested parties will have to receive an approval in order to dispatch their shipments.
Russia imposed a ban on various food and agricultural products five years ago, after the EU and US placed sanctions on the country following hostilities with Ukraine. Although not a member of the EU, Norway was included in the ban.
The planned rail route will begin at the Norwegian Port of Narvik, where refrigerated containers will be loaded with salmon bred in fish farms in northern Norway.
The containers will pass through the Swedish-Finnish border crossing to a railhead in the Finnish town of Kouvola for onward shipment across Russia to Xi’an in China. The entire journey is expected to take around 12 days.
Behind the Norway-China rail freight corridor project is businessman and rail consultant Micael Blomster and Railgate Finland.
Blomster described the plan as a huge breakthrough.
‘We believe this will reduce transport costs by about 80 per cent over air transport. The decision by Russia to lift the ban will open up major new opportunities for transporting salmon between Narvik in Norway to China.’
Currently, all Norwegian salmon is sent to China by air and volumes are increasing rapidly. But this growth has come under fire from environmental groups in Norway and elsewhere because of the huge carbon footprint involved.
The new initiative is being watched closely by many of Norway’s fish farming companies, anxious to display their green credentials.