More Lao cargo needed to fill cross-border freight train

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The newly launched transit freight train service requires more cargo shipments from Laos to Thailand to be successful. 

The train can carry 10 to 20 containers in and out of the country, but it appears that the number of exporters is smaller than that of importers. This is a problem that the parties involved must address by working together.

The President of the International Transport Association under the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Pachit Xayavong, told Vientiane Times yesterday “Having the freight train service is good. Transport costs will be lower because companies can export more goods at the same time, but this service must have a lot of goods for two-way shipments.”

The governments of Laos and Thailand launched the freight train service across the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on August 1 to facilitate the business sector and boost economic cooperation.

Lao products are shipped to Laem Chabang port in Thailand for onward supply to Thai markets or export to other regions.

An official responsible for the container yard belonging to the Lao Logistics State Enterprise said yesterday the imbalance in shipments entering and leaving Laos is an issue that needs to be addressed by stakeholders. A lot of goods are being brought into Laos, but little is being sent out of the country. These circumstances might impact the freight business, the official said.

But he was optimistic Laos will be able to export more products by freight train in the future.

The container yard official cited the example of Lao exports on the first day of the service, saying various containers of goods were shipped into Laos, but only two containers carrying Lao Brewery Company products were transported out of the country. 

Referring to the imbalance between imports and exports, the President of the International Transport Association expressed concern about the impact of this situation on foreign currency management by Laos.

As of now, the operator is using the same train to carry cargo and passengers. The official said, “Now we use the same one.”

But Mr Pachit believes using the same train to carry passengers and cargo is not acceptable as some containers may be loaded with chemical products.

The first daily shipment of goods from Thailand arrives in Laos at 6am and the train returns at 8am, taking commodities from Laos to Laem Chabang port in Thailand. The second train arrives in Laos at 7pm and leaves for Thailand at 9pm.

The total cargo carried by the train depends on the size of the containers, according to the Department of Railways under the Public Works and Transport Ministry. 

So far, transport businesses do not have clear details of the services offered, including costs, and they will coordinate with these businesses to improve the situation, the association’s president said.

The container yard official also said “We have some details, but some are not clear yet, including costs and services, because the foreign train operation has just begun. We will continue to coordinate with our business partners in Thailand.” 



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