Government yet to appoint agency to operate ICP Birgunj

Kathmandu, February 9

Even as the scheduled date of completion of the long-awaited Integrated Check Post (ICP) Birgunj is approaching fast, the government has yet to decide on the agency to operate the country’s first ICP.

It is definite that the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), which is responsible for appointing the agency for the operation of the ICP, will authorise one of the line agencies out of the four that are under it — Department of Commerce (DoC), Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC), Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB) and Nepal Transit and Warehousing Company Ltd (NTWCL).

Going by the nature of works assigned to them, it is unlikely that the DoC and the TEPC would be tasked to operate the ICP Birgunj. This means that the MoC will select either NITDB or NTWCL for this purpose.

But MoC remains unsure who will be given the task to operate the ICP that is being constructed to facilitate international trade in an effective and efficient manner.

The dilemma of MoC is the result of the recent meeting of the Project Steering Committee for the ICP which took a decision to appoint the agency to take over and operate the ICP Birgunj after its completion.

The recent decision is quite contrary to the previous one made by the committee during a meeting that was held from June 29 to 30, 2010. The earlier decision had clearly mentioned that NITDB, which currently looks after the ICD Birgunj, will be the final custodian of the ICPs. But now, NTWCL, which manages warehouses in the transit and border points for the export and import cargoes and also works as the customs house agent (CHA) for government cargoes at Kolkata port, is also in the race to operate the ICP.

Despite the fact that the NITDB was formed for the development and effective management of border infrastructure like Inland Clearance Depots (ICDs) and ICPs, the recent decision of the Project Steering Committee has created confusion on which agency will be responsible to take over the ICP from the contractor after its completion. The ICP, being constructed with grant assistance of the Ministry of External Affairs of the government of India, is scheduled to be handed over on March 31.

Though the Project Steering Committee decided to finalise the agency before completion of the ICP, the MoC has yet to make any headway in this regard.

Officials of the MoC said that they are preparing a modality to operate ICP as various agencies — customs, quarantine (both plant and animal), immigration, among others — will be involved. The operation modality will define the role of various agencies and one line agency under MoC will be appointed to coordinate and operate the ICP on the basis of that modality, according to Ravi Shankar Sainju, joint secretary of the MoC.

“We have to wait till the modality is endorsed by the ministry to learn which agency will be appointed for the overall coordination and management of the ICP.”