Was Vizag port inaugurated haphazardly?

Kathmandu, June 27

It appears Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi was deliberately misled by a businessman to haphazardly commence Nepal’s third-country trade via Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) seaport.

On Friday, while on his way back to Nepal from Bangladesh, Subedi made a surprise visit to Vishakhapatnam and flagged off nine containers of cargoes to Nepal. This was touted as the first consignment that had left directly for Nepal from Vizag port.

The cargo that originated in Malaysia was shipped to Vizag port for a Nepali businessman based in Janakpur. But it is not sure how the businessman will clear the goods from Nepali customs office because the government still has not finalised processes that need to be undertaken to import and export goods via Vizag port.

For instance, Nepal Rastra Bank has not notified commercial banks about operationalisation of the Vizag port. This means banks are not allowed to issue letters of credit to imports goods via Vizag port.

“Without this permission, traders will face problems at customs points because customs officials fix customs duties and other taxes based on cost of goods, insurance and freight (CIF) mentioned in letters of credit,” said Rajan Sharma, chairman of transit and transport committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Also, other issues related to parking yard facility, customs transit declaration, train fare, shipping liners’ charge, turnaround period of containers and appointment of customs house agents have not been finalised, said the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association.

“The Ministry of Commerce has not even discussed these issues with the private sector,” said Sharma.

This, according to him, is an indication that Chief Secretary Subedi inaugurated the service via Vizag port in a haphazard manner.

As a result, the containers flagged by Subedi are still stranded in Vizag port.

“I flagged off the cargo to inaugurate the new gateway for Nepal’s third-country trade. This does not mean the cargo recipient will get preferential treatment while bringing the goods into the country,” Subedi said, implying the trader must complete all procedures to import the consignments.

But why did Subedi rush to inaugurate the service?

As per Subedi, the Vizag Port Trust, operator of Vizag port, showed interest in inaugurating the service and invited him to flag off the cargoes. “Because of this, we did not inquire about the owner of the cargo and groundwork that needed to be laid prior to launching the service,” Subedi said.

Chief Secretary Subedi was accompanied by secretaries of the Ministry of Commerce and the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, and executive director of the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board during his visit to Vishakhapatnam.

Nepal and India had exchanged letters to bring Vizag port into operation during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to New Delhi in February. The Finance Ministry of India recently notified Vizag Port Authority about this issue.