India completes procedure for trade via Visakhapatnam Port

Kathmandu, August 4

The Visakhapatnam Custom House (VCH) has issued a procedure to regulate Nepal’s third-country trade through India via Visakhapatnam (Vizag) Port on Wednesday.

The procedure allows movement of sealed containers via road to and from four border points — Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. Similarly, it also allows transporting containers from Vizag Port to Birgunj and vice versa through rail route.

The procedure has taken simplified rules for customs transit declaration (CTD) at the Vizag Port. The VCH will allow release of goods through the port when presented with just a copy of the required documents for the CTD of Nepal-bound cargoes. This is expected to significantly reduce the time to clear the goods from the customs house.

Kolkata Port, the only other port that permits Nepal to conduct third-country trade via India, requires original documents. Hence, the process of CTD takes at least a week after cargoes arrive at the sea port.

According to the procedure issued by the VCH yesterday, traders can have their goods cleared through Vizag port by presenting just the copies of bill of lading, invoice, packing list, import licence issued by the Nepal government, as well as a copy of the letter of credit authenticated by the Jurisdictional Nepalese Consulate in India or the issuing bank.

The cost accrued in transshipment would have to be borne by the consignee, as per the procedure.

The Vizag customs will also affix additional one-time seal on the Nepal-bound containers to ensure the goods imported for Nepal are not retained in India. To expedite the processes related with customs, the VCH will immediately fax or e-mail the land customs stations at the border points of India and Nepal so that the cargo containers are not left stranded at the land customs stations.

The land customs stations would check whether the one-time seal is intact or not. Similarly, the land customs stations of Nepal would pass on the detailed information of export cargoes to the Indian land customs stations and the VCH.

The procedure has prohibited transport of arms, ammunition and hazardous items via road. However, the procedure has not talked about the role of customs house agents (CHAs). In Kolkata, CHAs are responsible for the Nepal-bound consignments on behalf of the consignor.

Traders and freight forwarders have been requesting Nepal Transit and Warehousing Company Ltd to play a role of CHA in Vizag Port as well as in Kolkata Port. The company has been working as CHA only for government-owned consignments in Kolkata.

While the Indian side has completed all the procedures to facilitate Nepal’s third-country trade via Vizag Port, Nepali traders and freight forwarders are yet to negotiate with the shipping liners regarding the turnaround time of shipping line containers after they are dispatched from the Vizag Port. Traders and freight forwarders have been demanding with government to establish a Consulate General’s Office in Vizag.

Traders will be able to ferry containerised cargoes via rail as per existing railway agreement. The Indian Railway has authorised its subsidiary Container Corporation (CONCOR) to ferry Nepal-bound cargoes. The government and traders need to negotiate with CONCOR for rail fare from Vizag Port to Nepal and vice versa.

As per the procedures issued by the VCH, a full rake (around 45 containers) would be needed for the movement of cargoes to Nepal from Vizag Port.

The letter of exchanges for the operationalisation of Vizag Port was signed during former prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India in February.