Nepal-bound containers stuck at Kolkata port

Kathmandu, November 5

Over 1,800 Nepal-bound cargo containers are stuck at Kolkata port as the Kolkata Police has barred the cargoes from being dispatched from the port during the day time citing traffic problems in the Khidirpur dock — a residential area near the port — since last month.

The new rule, introduced by Kolkata Police, will surely add to the cost and time of trade in transit as Nepal-bound cargo containers are being held up at the port and container freight stations (CFS) due to limited time for loading, as per Rajan Sharma, chair of Road Transport and Transit Committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Containers can be loaded and unloaded to and from rail and trucks only between 8:00pm and 4:00am as per the new rule because the movement of rail and trucks to the port has been prohibited in the day time, which has created hassles in timely delivery of Nepal-bound cargoes.

As loading of cargo containers to transport to the destination and unloading of empty containers to hand over to the shipping line is allowed only in the night time, unloading the containers from the dock has also been commissioned during the night time due to congestion in the port yard.

According to Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association (NEFFA), 950 containers that have been handed over to the Container Corporation (CONCOR) — a subsidiary of Indian Railways that transports Nepal-bound cargoes — has remained stuck at private container freight stations. “A similar situation was witnessed during disruption in supply lines from India to Nepal last year because containers were piled up in Kolkata and it is uncertain how long it will take to dispatch cargoes from the port and CFS,” as per NEFFA.

After the new rule was enforced last month, it took over a month to receive cargo containers at the Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) Birgunj — the country’s only rail-linked ICD — from the date of the cargo container being delivered at the Kolkata port, according to Sharma, “As Nepal-bound cargo containers have been piling up, it will be tough for Nepali traders and freight forwarders to return shipping line containers within the given time.”

Normally, shipping liners provide a grace period of 21 to 30 days by calculating the turnaround period of rail transport from Kolkata to Birgunj and vice-versa to return their containers. Within the grace period, shipping lines do not charge any fees. If the container is not returned within the given time, traders have to pay high demurrage charges ranging from $80 to $120 per day for holding containers for extra days.

On the other hand, container parking charges at the private container freight stations are also high, as per Sharma. Cargoes ferried via road need to be dispatched from the port within seven days and cargoes ferried via rail within 14 days from the date of delivery at Kolkata port. If the cargo containers cannot be released from the port, traders and freight forwarders carry their containers to the private CFS.

Following the imposition of new rule by the Kolkata Police, the Nepali Consulate General Office in Kolkata last week held discussions with the port trust, customs house agents, police and other stakeholders to seek a way out of the problem. However, the discussions were not able to bring forth any amicable solution.