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The Role of Maritime & Logistics Infrastructure in the Evolution of the Supply Chain Network

By Mateo Wiegold, Content Producer, TOC Worldwide

In an industry experiencing such fast changes, the role that geopolitics play in the development of maritime & logsitics infrastructure cannot go unnoticed.
Whether part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or of a potential new trade route uniting the West with the Far East, we could say that one-stream supply chains are mutating into what we could call a supply network. 

In recent years, we have seen important infrastructure investment across the region -and the world-, particularly coming from China.
The BRI is a strategy pursued by the Asian giant that consists of significant investment in logistics infrastructure, strengthening its presence, both regionally and globally. Amongst its most remarkable projects is the development of the China Rail Express intercontinental rail corridors connecting China and Europe via either Central Asia, Russia and the Black Sea, as well as an East Coast Rail project in Malaysia.

The BRI is forecasted to place China as the world’s top economy in the coming years. As a way to counterbalance the growing Chinese influence, the G7 announced during its last meeting in June 2021 the launch of their Bring Back a Better World (B3W) initiative, which is set to catalyse hundreds of billions of dollars of sustainable infrastructure investment for low- and middle- income countries. Yet, after more than a year since this announcement, there have not been significant advances. Although modernisation of trade infrastructure will be the primary result, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a commercial race between the two major powers.

Further to its intensive infrastructure investment, China has also been setting its trade strategy, both in the continent and into the Indo-Pacific: Not only did trade between China and ASEAN countries grow 48% in the first six months of 2021, but the Asian giant has also been seeking to expand its trade arrangements in the Indo-Pacific by seeking to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Looking to compete with China, Vietnam - as well as other Asian countries - is currently displaying a potential to become a manufacturing leader. However, the modernisation and sustainable development of their port and logistics infrastructure is vital for such end.
Another giant country that up until recently had been displaying great potential to play a major role in global maritime trade is Russia. Why? Global Warming. As the ice cap in the Arctic Ocean continues to melt, the Eurasian power has been gaining access to a potential new trade route in the Arctic Ocean: The Northern Sea Route (NSR).
While this could have opened the gate for cargo transport in Central Asia, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has certainly changed the landscape of Eurasian – and maybe even global? –trade for the foreseeable future.

In a world where international geopolitics and nationalisms become more pressing every day, one wonders whether connecting Asia with Europe through international transhipment ports and multimodal port operations will actually be possible. 
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