Kathmandu, February 14
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today inaugurated the country’s first shipping office, which will build inland waterways to facilitate cross-border movement of goods and people.
The office based in Ekantakuna, Lalitpur, was established as per the Cabinet’s decision of January 13. The office will have 16 officers, including a senior divisional engineer, a section officer, a legal officer, an accountant, a mechanical engineer, an irrigation engineer, and a highway engineer, among others.
PM Oli said the office will help the country to develop inland waterways on big rivers which can play a crucial role in promoting international trade.
“Once we have inland waterways, Nepal cannot be called a completely landlocked country. This will help in movement of cargoes from India and third-countries,” he said, adding, “The shipping office will not become a place to provide employment to a handful of government staff.”
Oli also said Nepal will gradually start operating ships bearing Nepal’s flag in international waters.
“This will be a matter of pride for Nepal,” said Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Raghubir Mahaseth, adding, “Earlier, many had made fun of the government when the idea of operating our own ship in international waters was floated. This criticism worked as fodder for us to develop inland waterways.”
Trade via inland waterways will reduce transportation cost for international trade, according to Mahaseth. “So, we will expedite the process of building inland waterways,” he said.
Based on Nepal’s request, India has already initiated the process of providing Nepal the access to India’s waterways.
Union Shipping and Water Resources Minister of India, Nitin Gadkari, on Monday laid the foundation stone for the development of a 300-km-long river route from Hajipur to Triveni Ghat in the Gandak River, which would facilitate Nepal-India water transport.
The INR 130 million project will facilitate transport of goods from Haldia Port to the Nepal border.
At the bilateral trade treaty review meeting held in Pokhara last week, the government had requested India to give access to two other seaports—the Mundra Port on the western coast and the Dhamra Port on the eastern coast.
A version of this article appears in print on February 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.