Country seeks bulk cargo facility at more customs points

Kathmandu, April 29

Nepal has proposed the government of India to sign the letter of exchanges on movement of bulk cargoes to the nearest railhead of major checkposts of Nepal-India border namely, Jogbani (Biratnagar), Nautanwa (Bhairahawa) and Rupedhia (Nepalgunj) from the gateway ports - Kolkata/Haldia and Visakhapatnam, during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal.

Prime Minister Modi's visit to Nepal has been scheduled for May 11 and 12.

Currently, bulk cargo is ferried via rail only to Raxaul and Birgunj and the cost of transportation is expected to drop substantially to ferry bulk cargo to western and eastern parts of Nepal if the LoEs are signed during the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi.

Due to its efficiency and high water draft level, Visakhapatnam port is considered the best alternative to import bulk cargo. However, the transit treaty allows movement of containerised goods only to Birgunj and Biratnagar. Traders have said that if bulk cargo movement is allowed from Visakhapatnam port, the port could be better utilised for import of bulk cargo like cement, fertilisers, HR coil, clinker and coal. Likewise, the transit treaty limits the bulk cargo movement facility only to Birgunj (Raxaul).

The government of India has already given permission for the movement of containerised cargo to the nearest railheads of aforementioned major customs points of Nepal. And the test phase has been started from Kolkata to Jogbani.

Nepal has requested India to execute a similar electronic cargo tracking system from Visakhapatnam port with an objective to execute the transshipment facility in the near future. After the transshipment agreement between Nepal and India is signed, Nepal-bound cargo containers can be directly ferried to the designated dry ports of Nepal from the port of origin without submission of import documents and customs transit declaration at Indian ports, according to Ravi Shanker Sainju, joint secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.

A draft of the LoE for the movement of bulk cargo movement has been proposed by Nepal since long. The draft titled ‘Process Simplification and Additional Route' was submitted for comments to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India some two years back. During this period, India had expressed reluctance to provide such facility.

“The facility that Nepal is looking for is critical for industrialisation in the country as it is expected to reduce the cost of ferrying raw materials imported from India and also from third countries,” said Sainju.

“Currently, Kolkata/Haldia is the only port from where Nepal is allowed to import bulk cargo but sometimes it takes over a month to just get space to dock the cargo ship.”

Nepal hopes the Indian side is also making preparations on it as they had asked the Nepal government to send the draft LoE of bulk cargo again and it was submitted to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India on April 19.