Over 1,500 empty cargo containers stuck at Birgunj dry port
October 2, 2021 01:40 PM NPT
BIRGUNJ, Oct 2: At a time when containers for international trade in goods are scarce following the COVID-19 pandemic, over 1,500 empty cargo containers are currently stuck at the dry port in Birgunj. Due to this, the only dry port in the country that is used for international trade is facing a ‘container congestion’. Some containers have remained unused at the dry port for over a year and a half.
The dry port which has the capacity to handle as many as 1,500 containers at a time has now become a warehouse for empty containers and loaded containers. According to Pristine Valley Dry port, the company operating the dry port in Birgunj, the reason behind the congestion of empty containers is not due to carelessness but due to the containers which arrived during the lockdowns. They say that the problem increased after the Container Corporation India did not show any interest in taking back the old containers.
According to B Mohan, executive director of Pristine Group of Companies, main partner of the company operating the dry port, as many as 850 empty containers were already laying idle at the dry port before the company took the responsibility of operating it. “Himalaya Terminals was the previous operator of the dry port. During their tenure, over 850 empty containers had gathered at the dry port by August 6, 2020,” he said. “The operating company is not responsible for the mess. It was very difficult to send the containers back due to the enforced lockdowns during the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. After that, 360 more empty containers gathered at the dry port,” he added. “The congestion of the containers has made the dry port a risky area for the workers as well, Mohan said.
According to customs clearing agents, the stack of empty containers on top of each other has increased the time needed to take the containers out. As the dry port does not charge any money to keep empty containers there, shipping companies have not shown interest in collecting them. However, due to the lack of availability of empty containers around the world, some shipping companies have shown interest in taking them back. Previously, it cost as much as USD 4,000 to 6,000 while shipping a container of goods from China to Nepal. The cost has now increased to USD 10,000.
Furthermore, Mohan informed Republica that the company is making efforts to hold dialogues with shipping companies and Container Corporation India. A cost of Rs 20 million is estimated to clear all the empty containers.