Detention charge costing importers over Rs 12 crore daily

Kathmandu, October 8

Imported items from third countries and India are certain to be costlier in the coming days, as importers have been compelled to pay unimaginable detention charges levied by the shipping liners and Kolkata port for failing to release cargo and return containers to shipping liners in timely manner.

The detention charge being borne by Nepali importers has exceeded Rs 125.93 million per day. The cost is calculated based on the detention amount levied by the port and shipping liners and the number of cargo containers stuck at Kolkata port, stranded at Nepal-India border points and stuck at Inland Clearance Depot in Birgunj. According to the Consulate General Office, Kolkata, 900 containers are ready to be dispatched via road, 1,123 containers via rail and about 150,000 tonnes of bulk cargo of MS billet, coal and chemical fertilisers in 7,500 containers continue to be stranded. Kolkata port provides grace period of three weeks and one week for cargo ferried via rail and road, respectively, once the cargo arrives at the port.

Likewise, importers also need to pay $80 to $120 every day to the shipping liners, if they fail to return the containers within 14 days. Normally shipping liners provide grace period of two weeks to Nepali importers. It is reported that 830 containers that need to be sent to Kolkata are stuck at ICD Birgunj.

According to Rajan Sharma, president of the Nepal Freight Forwarders Association, importers have to pay additional Rs 112,000 per container per day in detention. In normal times also, Nepali importers used to pay detention charge of about Rs 18.85 million every day. Due to the protests, the detention in imports has already surged by seven folds as compared to normal times.

The volume of freight stuck at port has increased substantially after the Indian Railways halted service from September 23 citing congestion at ICD Birgunj. The service has not been resumed still. Earlier, around seven to nine rakes (644 to 828 containers) were transported by rail in a week.

It will take at least a month just to clear the customs after the movement of vehicles and rail resume, as per Sharma. On some of the imported items, the detention charge will exceed the cost of goods, while some of the cargoes with limited shelf life would have expired, thus rendering massive losses to the importers.