Delivery of Nepal-bound cargo to Jogbani via rail to continue

Kathmandu, August 1

Traders will be able to ferry Nepal-bound cargo to Bathnaha of India (the nearest rail head from Biratnagar customs) for next three months as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) has decided to extend the pilot phase of Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS).

The Central Board of Excise and Customs of India had agreed to provide the facility initially for three months, with a provision of extension for another three months based on mutual understanding.

Nepali importers have been able to enjoy the facility since last week of April.

Ravi Shanker Sainju, joint secretary at the MoICS, said that as the works are under way to complete the broad-gauge railway line from Bathnaha to Biratnagar by October, the service could continue in the future if the 14-km railway line is completed on schedule.

The meeting of the Nepali and Indian Railway authorities held here in the second week of July had agreed to complete the railway line extension from Bathnaha to Biratnagar by October this year. Following its completion, Biratnagar dry port will be the second rail-based dry port after Birgunj.

Nepal and India agreed to enforce ECTS as per Nepal's proposal to execute trans-shipment for the Nepal-bound third country cargo, which is expected to bring down the cost of Nepal's foreign trade substantially. ECTS provision and more routes for the delivery of cargo via rail will be included in the amendment of Nepal-India trade treaty, and the Railway Service Agreement will also be amended accordingly, according to Sainju.

The study report on enforcement of the ECTS on Nepal-bound cargo from Kolkata port will be decisive to provide such facility to the other nearest railhead of other major customs points, namely, Bhairahawa (Nautanwa railhead) and Nepalgunj (Rupedhia railhead). The study report will provide recommendations for standard operating procedure prepared for ECTS and the provisions that need to be included in Nepal-India Transit Treaty, as per Sainju. ECTS is mandatory to bring cargo via rail because the Central Board of Excise and Customs of India is sensitive towards the chances of trade deviation.

However, regular movement of cargo via Indian port to nearest railhead of aforementioned major trading routes between Nepal and India will be initiated only after revision of trade treaty and railway service agreement.

Traders of Morang are upbeat about the completion of railway line to Biratagar within the stipulated timeframe.

“Currently, there is not much difference in cost of ferrying cargo via road and rail from Kolkata to Biratnagar because we have to unload cargo at Bathnaha rail yard and again ferry it via road to Biratnagar, which is full of hassles,” said Bhim Ghimire, president of Chamber of Industries, Morang, “It will be more viable and the cost of trade will be substantially reduced once the Nepal-bound cargo are directly delivered to Biratnagar after completion of cross-border railway line connection.”

Nepal is also preparing to execute ECTS for containers ferried to Nepal via Visakhapatnam Port. Once it is implemented, Nepal-bound cargo containers will be directly ferried to Nepal. It will reduce the process related to customs transit declaration in Indian ports and Nepal-bound cargo containers will be delivered on time without having to face any hassles at Indian ports.