Prime Minister Oli (second from right) and ministers at the inauguration of Nepal Ship Office in Lalitpur on Thursday. Photo: Bijaya Rai/Republica
This is second time a ship office was launched; a similar effort in the early 1970s failed
KATHMANDU, Feb 15: Prime Minister KP Oli, who promised to operate Nepal’s own ships during the election last year, inaugurated Nepal Ship Office amidst a special function at Ekantakuna, Lalitpur on Thursday.
Claiming that Nepal had now entered the shipping era, Oli said Nepalis will soon be able to travel abroad by Nepal’s own ships.
Referring to the mockery he was subjected to when he first floated the idea of inland waterways, the prime minister urged one and all to trust that his dream to operate Nepal’s own ships will materialize soon.
While stating that the ship office was not opened to provide jobs to a few engineers, Oli said the new initiative is aimed at taking the country one step forward in terms of advancement of its mode of transport.
“We are not opening this office just to give jobs to some people. This is not meant to provide jobs to a few engineers either. We have opened this office to take the country one step forward and make it known as a ship-user country,” he further said.
Referring to concerns raised by some that it may not be possible to operate ships in Nepal’s major rivers due to lack of adequate depth, Prime Minister Oli claimed that our rivers are deep enough. “If ships can be operated in the Ganga River, they can be brought to Nepal as well,” he said.
Oli argued that ships can be of various sizes in accordance with the depth of the river where they operate. On the occasion, the prime minister also announced plan to send Nepali students to abroad to study about ships and train engineers to make these initiatives viable.
This is the second time a ship office has been established in Nepal. Back in the early 1970’s, the government had established a Royal Shipping Corporation and even bought a ship. It was named Narendra Rajya Laxmi. But due to lack of proper homework and operational plans to make the initiative economically viable, the company soon went bankrupt.
Economist Swarnim Wagle said the government needs to do a cost-benefit analysis, and also study how much money can be saved by transporting goods through inland shipping, the speed of this mode of transportation, the environmental impact of regular dredging and the needs for amendments to existing treaties and regulations if history is not to repeat itself.
“One of the reasons why landlocked countries are lagging behind is the costs of production and transportation owing to distance from the world market. Let’s move ahead seriously, shunning exaggerated publicity and mockery and think of the well-being of Nepal,” Wagle said.
For his dream project, Prime Minister Oli had directed the Ministry of Physical Infrastructures and Transport Management (MoPITM) to expedite work on establishing the Ship Office and operating the service through Nepal’s major rivers including Koshi and Gandaki.
The inauguration of Nepal Ship Office comes in the wake of the Indian government preparing to expand its inland waterways up to Trivenighat in Nawalparasi along the Nepal-India border within a year. The Indian side has informed Nepal that the route up to Trivenighat would be completed linking Kolkata and Haldiya in India to the Narayani River .
India had agreed to provide Nepal access to the seaport during the visit of Prime Minister Oli to India shortly after he assumed office last year. “Taking cognizance of their geographies and noting the development of inland waterways in both countries, the two prime ministers took the landmark decision to develop the inland waterways for the movement of cargo, within the framework of trade and transit arrangements, providing additional access to sea for Nepal,” read the joint statement issued after the conclusion of Oli’s visit