Kathmandu, November 1
Cargo imported from third countries that had been stuck at the Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) Birgunj since long due to the ongoing protest in the Tarai and rising insecurity in Birgunj area have started being dispatched to their respective destinations from today.
According to the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB), 19 trucks and containers have cleared the customs clearance process till today evening and 33 are in line to clear the process.
It will take another one week to clear the goods stuck at ICD if loading of goods and customs clearance are done at a rapid pace, according to Laxman Basnet, executive director of NITDB. The ongoing protest in Birgunj has created obstruction in operation of the ICD Birgunj. Workers of ICD, customs house agents, customs officers, and bank staff were threatened by the agitators.
The cargo that was dispatched today were escorted by security forces. The District Administration Office, Parsa, has ensured the required security, fuel and other necessary logistics to Himalayan Terminals Pvt Ltd, which manages the ICD Birgunj, the only rail-linked ICD of the country.
As work at the ICD was affected due to the protest, Indian Railways had also halted service for two consecutive weeks from September 23 citing congestion at the ICD. As a result, the volume of cargo at Kolkata port increased because around seven to nine rakes (644 to 828 containers) are transported by rail in a week.
Due to the protest in the Tarai, a large chunk of cargo is stranded at Kolkata port and at the border points which has been increasing the cost of import as importers are compelled to pay high detention and demurrage charges. A rapid assessment of Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association (NEFFA) has said that the additional cost being borne by Nepali importers due to the protest in the Tarai has exceeded Rs five billion till date.
According to NITDB, 270 cargo containers, 40,000 tonnes of bulk cargo and 92,000 tonnes of break-bulk cargo have been stuck at ICD Birgunj. Similarly, 1,192 containers are stuck at Kolkata port, among which 392 containers have been handed over to Indian Railways for transport to Nepal.
Meanwhile, importers and freight forwarders have requested the government to provide more security so that more cargo can be loaded as there is still a shortage of labourers at the ICD because most of the labourers are yet to return to work. They have reportedly been threatened by the agitators.
Freight forwarders have also complained that though the government has given approval of re-routing the trucks, containers stranded at Raxaul in the Indian side are still facing problems. Reportedly, banks who opened L/Cs to import goods ask freight forwarders to disclose the route in customs transit declaration while dispatching goods from Kolkata (via road). “This is not practical and it is not a serious issue. Banks are only creating hassles,” said Rajan Sharma, president of NEFFA.
A version of this article appears in print on November 02, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.