Country seeks India’s support for waiver of demurrage charges

Kathmandu, January 10

The country has sought the support of neighbouring India for waiver of the demurrage and detention charges being imposed on Nepal-bound cargoes by shipping liners and container freight stations (CFS) in India.

Cost of trade has been increasing rather steeply as Nepal-bound cargoes have been stranded at the Kolkata Port yard, private CFS and at the border points due to the ongoing border-blockade that was started by the Madhes-based political parties since the third week of September.

Shipping liners normally extend a grace period of 14 to 35 days for the containers to be returned to Kolkata port once the Nepal-bound cargoes are released from the port. Similarly, the port extends a grace period of 10 and 20 days to release the cargoes ferried via road and rail, respectively.

After the grace period is over, shipping liners charge $80 to $120 per day till the date they receive the containers. Similarly, after the grace period expires and if the containers remain stranded at the port, the port authority sends the Nepal-bound cargoes to the yard of private container freight stations, for which the traders have to pay high rent to CFS and demurrage charges to shipping liners.

Nepali traders and freight forwarders work through Indian Customs House Agents (CHAs) and CHAs sign a bond with shipping liners on behalf of the consignee (for Nepal-bound cargoes). CHAs, at present, have been pressurising Nepali traders and freight forwarders to pay the demurrage and detention charges, which have reportedly exceeded INR six billion since the start of the border-blockade. The CHAs have apparently said that they will not release the cargoes if the demurrage and detention charges are not cleared.

In a meeting with Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, today, Minister for Commerce Deepak Bohara, requested the Indian minister to take the initiative to get the detention and demurrage charges being borne by Nepali traders waived. He cited the difficult situation being faced by traders due to the blockade at Nepal-India border points.

Bohara held a meeting with his Indian counterpart today at Visakhapatnam of Andhra Pradesh on the sidelines of the Partnership Summit, 2016, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in partnership with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India, and the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. The summit, which started today will conclude on Tuesday, and Bohara is scheduled to address the summit tomorrow. Bohara was invited by his Indian counterpart.

Bohara also informed Minister Sitharaman about the difficulties being faced by the common people due to disruption in supply lines from India to Nepal and ways to remove barriers of trade, according to Joint Secretary of Ministry of Commerce Jib Raj Koirala, who is also part of the delegation led by Minister Bohara.

Talking to The Himalayan Times over phone from Visakhapatnam, Koirala informed the commerce minister also talked on various other issues like reducing the alarming trade deficit with India, control of unauthorised trade, and trade and transit facilitation.

He also requested for the early completion of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at Birgunj, Biratnagar and Bhairahawa. The ICPs are being developed under grant assistance from the government of India. However, the construction works in Nepal are moving very slowly as compared to the Indian side.

Minister Sitharaman assured that she would give due consideration to issues raised by Minister Bohara and try to resolve them at the earliest.

Commerce minister meets Bangladeshi counterpart

KATHMANDU: Minister for Commerce Deepak Bohara held a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Tofail Ahmed on the sidelines of the Partnership Summit being organised in Visakhapatnam, today. In the meeting, Minister Bohara stressed on setting up an immigration office at Banglabandha, which will facilitate visa related processes of Nepali students and travellers who use the land route to enter Bangladesh. Both the commerce ministers agreed to speak to the Indian government for the seamless movement of cargo vehicles to boost trade between the two countries. Nepal and Bangladesh use the Phulbari-Banglabandha (52 km road) over the Indian territory for trade and movement of bus service. Likewise, letter of exchange on operating broad gauge rail service from Singhabad (India) to Rohanpur (Bangladesh) was also proposed to boost trade relations. India’s consent is required for the purpose. Likewise, both the commerce ministers agreed to resume bilateral mechanisms like commerce secretary level talks, which have been stalled since long after Nepal hosted the meeting in July, 2012. However, a joint secretary level meeting was held in Kathmandu in April last year, but agreements that were signed then need to be endorsed by commerce secretary level meeting for pacts to be implemented.