BIRGUNJ, May 14: India's Kolkata port is building infrastructures to improve its service quality much to the delight of Nepali exporters and importers.
The port handles around 94 percent of Nepal's third country imports and exports. In Fiscal Year 2016/17, the port handled around 72,000 Nepali containers. This year, it is estimated to handle around 80,000 containers.
Stakeholders say the improvement in facilities at the port is expected to benefit Nepal as well as Bhutan and north-eastern Indian states
Kolakta Port Trust – the authority that manages the port – started expanding its capacity after it approached maximum capacity utilization levels. Himansu Shekhar, a terminal manager at the port, said that the trust was upgrading infrastructure in loading areas of both railway and roadway yards.
After upgradation, area of the yard will expand from 100,000 square meters to 135,000 square meters.
The trust completed upgrading work on yard spanning 8,000 square meters in March, while work on another 8,500 square meters is expected to be completed within a month, Shekhar told Republica. Similarly, work on 8,000 square meters of the planned 14,000 square meters at Basram area has already been completed.
According to Shekhar, work on 4,000 square meters of yard at Nimak Mahal has also been completed. Two yards of 7,000 square meters and 20,000 square meters yards are expected to be ready by mid-July.
Nepali importers have been facing problem in import and export due to the lack of sufficient space at the port. Now, importers no more have to face similar problem, an official of the trust told Republica.
Similarly, two railway lines have been built in loading area to facilitate movement of railway containers, according to Shekhar. It has expanded the port's loading capacity to 360 containers from 135.
Due to congestion at Kolkata port, many importers have started using Vishakhapatnam and Haldia ports. Dhamara port in Indian state of Odissa is also coming into operation very soon. This also forced the trust to improve facilities at the Kolkata port.
“Being a river port, the Port of Kolkata has its own limitations and characteristics,” Binit Kumar, chairperson of the trust, told Republica. “As it is the nearest port for Nepal, it has played a significant role in Nepal's foreign trade.”
He also said that the port has arranged a separate desk and a focal person to facilitate Nepali containers at the port.
Pradip Kedia, former president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), said that upgradation of facilities at Kolkata port will help significantly in processing of Nepali cargoes at the port.
With the expansion of the port, several shipping companies have announced more facilities for Nepali importers.
“Such improvements are the success of economic diplomacy that Nepal has initiated,” said Chandra Kumar Ghimire, secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. “Competition among Indian ports is benefiting Nepal.”