Nepal-bound cargo stuck at Kolkata port

Kathmandu, October 24

Nepali traders are helplessly watching the detention charges slapped by shipping liners surge with each passing day, while their cargo containers remain stranded at the Kolkata port due to lack of rakes.

Due to the reluctance of the Container Corporation (CONCOR) of India — a subsidiary of Indian Railways authorised to deliver Nepal-bound cargo — to add rakes, more than 1,300 cargo containers bound for Nepal are stuck at the Kolkata port.

“There has been a backlog of containers in Kolkata port since September 10, when the volume of import rises due to the festive season, adding to the detention charges that Nepali importers will have to pay,” said Rajan Sharma, former president of Nepal Freight Forwarders Association (NEFFA).

Detention charges of the shipping liners have already exceeded around Rs 160 million due to backlog of containers at the port and container freight stations since last month, according to NEFFA.

Heem Bahadur Rawal, president of Nepal Foreign Trade Association, said traders had been facing this problem time and again, significantly affecting their business due to uncertainty in arrival of their consignments.

According to Sharma, the problem keeps recurring due to the reluctance of Indian Railways to add more rakes along with the rise in Nepal’s import. The country’s import has been surging every passing year but CONCOR has not added the required number of rakes to deliver the cargo on time.

Kolkata port does not allow more than 15 days to take delivery of the import containers from the port. Hence, the imported containers, after 10 days of landing at Kolkata port, need to be shifted to customs bonded container freight stations and the fees of the CFS create additional burden on traders.

Apart from that, traders need to pay detention charges to the shipping liners after exceeding the 21-day turnaround period to return containers after unloading cargo in Nepal.

“There is monopoly of CONCOR in ferrying Nepal-bound cargo. This is the major reason behind this perennial problem,” Sharma alleged.

The Railway Service Agreement between India and Nepal has given sole authority to CONCOR to ferry Nepal-bound cargo.

Traders have been urging the government to end the monopoly of a single rail service company for ferrying Nepal-bound cargo while revising the RSA. The need for early amendment to RSA was mentioned in the joint statement of the prime ministers of Nepal and India issued during the visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India in August.

While the statement did not mention any timeline for RSA amendment, government authorities have said they will talk to Indian Railways to add more rakes to facilitate timely delivery of Nepal-bound cargo.