BIRGUNJ, Oct 24: Vessels have not been able to unload Nepal-bound cargoes at the Kolkata port thanks to port congestion. Freight forwarders say vessels have to wait a minimum of a week to 10 days to get their turn for unloading cargoes.
Nepal freight forwarders and importers are bearing the brunt of oversupply of containers at the Kolkata port having ageing infrastructures.
As many as 1,423 Nepal-bound containers have received clearance from port authorities till Monday. But as the vessels carrying these containers have not been docked yet, it is causing delay in movement of containers from the port.
The vessels bringing Nepal-bound goods from Singapore arrived at the port on October 9. But the ship had not received berthing permission berthing till Saturday. Importers say the vessel was still 'on hold' till Monday. Three other vessels carrying Nepal-bound cargo have also arrived at the Kolkata port, according to importers.
Importers say the vessel carrying Nepal-bound cargo is not getting berthing permission because of the port's policy of 'first in, first out'.
As if it were not enough, shipping companies and port authorities levy high demurrage and detention fees if containers are not cleared from the port within the stipulated time.
Ashok Temani, a member of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) said that congestion in Kolkata port has hampered Nepal's foreign trade as well as increased the cost of doing business“ "Containers are waiting at the port, but goods are yet to be unloaded from ships. We have to pay high detention and demurrage charge to the transporters. The losses can run up to millions of rupees per da”," he added.
Nepal had imported 72,000 container load of goods last year. This year officials expect the number to rise to 90,000.
Temani complained that the Kolkata Port Trust (KPT), the authority looking after the management of Kolkata port, has no plan to upgrade infrastructures to handle more cargoes. “
"The congestion can be eased to some extent by utilizing the land near the port owned by Nepal Transit & Warehousing Co Ltd - a Nepal government undertaking. But Nepali officials are reluctant to discuss the issue with the port authoriti”s," Temani added.
Talks of using the Majarhat Terminal of Container Corporation of India (CCI), which has been transporting cargoes from the Kolkata port to Nepal, are doing rounds for the past many years. But such dialogues are yet to bear fruits. CCI transports Nepali cargoes till the dry port at Sirsiya, Birgunj.
Bishnu Kanta Chaudhary, CEO of Himalayan Terminals, which operates the dry port, said the company was trying its best to bring the Majarhat Terminal into operation to facilitate Nepali importers.
The present congestion at the port is due to floods in August and due to Diwali holidays in India, Sushant Chachan, a Birgunj-based importer told Republica.
Pradip Kedia, former president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said government officials have not showed any interest to address the issu“. "The problem will be easily sorted once the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi takes the needful initiativ”s," he added.