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Some price estimates: (very crude, but shows magnitude of price)

Rail is 4 times more expensive than by sea. Air is at least 6 times more expensive than rail, but can be even 18 times more expensive if payload is heavy.

Cost of shipping 40′ HC container:

- by sea: $1,600

- by train: $6,800

- by air, light, so you pay for volume: 4.6 USD / kg, 40 ft got volume 67.7 m3 * 143 kg / m3 ~= 9 tons, $41,400

- by air, heavy, so you pay for real weight: 4.6 USD / kg, 40tf can be 27tons, $124,200

Shanghai <-> Gdynia, Poland: http://www.transportchiny.pl/ceny_transportu_z_chin.php

Shanghai <–> Małaszewicze, Poland http://gocargo.pl/czy-transport-koleja-z-chin-jest-oplacalny...

By Air: http://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/air-freight-import-china-g...

Container: https://www.searates.com/reference/equipment/3/

Excuse me for non-English links, but that was the easiest what I can find.


- Air cargo - 0.8063 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile

- Truck - 0.1693 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile

- Train - 0.1048 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile

- Sea freight - 0.0403 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile

So I see this competing with air freight, not sea.


Most of the people making these decisions are primarily concerned with cost and time and not pollution, so what determines whether this will be successful is primarily cost vs time.

The people I know in freight barely think about cost, it's all about time. But you're right - not pollution.

Some regulators might start offering incentives in that regard though.

Do they ever use anything besides air freight? The fact that slower methods get a lot of business suggests a lot of people are thinking about cost over time.

But the ship route China <-> London is a lot more miles than the train.

18 days train vs 30 days ships.

No-one I know in logistics is very worried about cost per container, especially with the massive over capacity in shipping.

When the iPhone launched they brought them by 747, I think this train would have been a viable option.

I would have thought so too, but I'm not sure. Does anyone have any figures on this?

no figures, but there is the northern route (north of russia) so getting to europe via sea is pretty direct. Thank global warming for that!


> the northern route could gradually be opened for four to six months a year

*There's a northern route that is only open for a portion of the year.

very interesting. That makes it a viable option between 'I have 6 months to plan this product launch, let's choose the cheapest' and 'I have empty shelves, let refill them whatever the cost'

Rail would seem in principle to far and away be the most efficient, so I hope these prices change to reflect that.

Do you mean more efficient than ships? Ships are far more efficient. They can scale up far larger, making for much lower fuel consumption per ton, and don't need to maintain much (or often any at all) infrastructure between terminals. Trains exist just because a substantial minority of the planet's surface isn't covered by water.

Indeed. It's hard to intuit because of the sheer scale of the vessels, but modern container shipping is almost magical in its capacity and efficiency. I once saw an estimate that the cost in resources to transport a container all the way from China to the UK on a ship was actually less than the cost of putting that container on the back of a lorry and transporting it just a few hundred miles to a distribution centre in the midlands once it landed.

Well trucks are awfully inefficient.

while also taking...a good while longer :)

Really?! I recall reading something I could not find saying rail was far in away the most efficient.

I'd think the drag of ships in water vs rail in air would also be far, far greater, but I've never taking fluid mechanics and trains do move a lot faster.

Then again one ship can carry as much as 50 trains or so?

Ships are about 2.5x more efficient than trains according to this: http://business.tenntom.org/why-use-the-waterway/shipping-co...

Drag is indeed huge, but so are the ships.

One interesting thing about ships is that drag depends heavily on speed. If fuel efficiency becomes a greater concern, they can go a bit slower to compensate. Of course, that increases other costs....

I'm thinking if we built it train the size of a container ship and rolled it at 15 knots, it would probably be more efficient. But we won't, so I rest my case.

Yeah, I bet ship-sized trains would be more efficient. I think there may be some practical difficulties in building such things though.

Oh yeah definitely. Also cause scaling maybe making decent efficient bearings would be nigh impossible and it still would be less efficient.

I know a recreational motorboat is less efficient than a car by a lot, but...scaling.

Oh engineering with so many trade-offs and sad realities. I'm glad I work in a field of rediculous low-hanging fruit.


Produce more CO2

Increase Global Warming

Oceans rise

Everything is covered by water



What principle is that? Prices reflect reality, not the other way around.

If only willpower were enough to bend prices into personal preferences

Other things affect price besides energy efficiency. Railroads could charge a premium for speed. Also, existing rail routes could be sub-optimal.

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