VISAKHAPATNAM: Visakhapatnam has become the ideal gateway port for EXIM Cargo from Nepal and Vizag Port Trust has been successful to provide all the facilities efficiently with quicker turnaround time.
Pointing out that Vizag Port Trust had to wait for many years to be designated as the second choicest gateway port for Nepal, the Chairman of VPT explained to the seven-member Nepali delegation that the port had several advantages than the Kolkata-Haldia port, although Nepal was at a longer distance from here, but its strategically positioned location, facilities, efficiency and quicker turnaround time would make VPT a more natural choice for Nepal’s Freight Cargo. The VPT would also offer competitive rates and the cargo would be moved in and out in a quicker time.
Mr.Subedi Chief Secretary to the Nepal Government said starting EXIM cargo of his country from here was a milestone and this would help strengthen trade relations between the countries. He assured that Nepal would try to make use of the port here. He thanked the VPT Chairman and other officials, the Customs and Indian Railways for their cooperation. Mr. Subedi said plans for a trade meet in Nepal would be made to create a better understanding between exporters and importers of the two countries.
The deeper draft of 17 metres in the outer harbour of Visakhapatnam compared to seven metres in the Kolkata port would make it easy to handle bigger vessels with a distinct cost advantage, COO of VCTPL Sushil Mulchandani said.
Visakhapatnam would connect Nepal with the rest of South India also. He explained to the Nepali delegation that it would be beneficial for Nepal to use the cargo terminal here than the one in Kolkata.
The Nepal delegation interacted with the stakeholders, CONCOR, shipping liners, CFS handling agents and other agencies and wanted them to examine the areas of constraints such as freight charges, deployment of rakes, intermediaries and the logistics since better business would happen it the constraints were removed.
CONCOR rakes for Nepal
Container Corporation of India (CONCOR), so far transporting between Kolkata port and Nepal’s inland container depot (ICD) at Birganj only third country traffic in containers (that is, Nepal’s imports and exports in containers in respect of countries other than India but routed through Kolkata port), recently handled for the first time a slice of the bilateral trade in containers. A rake carrying 70 containers with polyester fibre moved from CONCOR’s Nagpur ICD to Nepal’s Birganj ICD. The exporter from India was Indo Rama Synthetics (India) Ltd and the importers in Nepal were Reliance Spinning, Jyoti Spinning and Triveni Spnning. The journey was completed in five days. It could have been completed in four days but for “some mess up by the railways in transit”. However, the containers used by CONCOR were not exim type but domestic boxes which are being placed at the consignees’ doorstep. Since there is no traffic available for the return journey, the boxes will come back as empties. The Customs clearance was done at Raxaul, the last Indian station on the India-Nepal border. Though the second rake is not yet ready for immediate run on the route, some sponge iron traffic is likely to move in not-too-distant future from Rourkela to Birganj ICD, though in BCN wagons, not in containers.
Nepal Shippers plan to shift to Haldia and Vizag more than Kolkata Port
Nepali freight forwarders on Sunday said that Haldia, a major river port and industrial hub in the Indian state of West Bengal and Vizag Port Trust in Visakhapatam on the eastern coast of India could be the best alternative for shipping goods to Nepal as Kolkata port has been facing a number of problems. They also have asked the concerned authorities to begin work to simplify frontier formalities, freight charges and timeline to bring Haldia port into operation because Visakhapatnam port, touted as the new gateway for Nepal’s third country trade, is yet to come into full operations.
Currently, importers have been using Haldia port, located 125 kilometres southwest of Kolkata, to import mainly cargos shipped in open containers like coal, cement clinker, rice, fertiliser and animal feed. Other items are imported through Kolkata port.
Shippers have frequently complained about Kolkata port due to increasing traffic congestion. The port, although located at a shorter distance than other ports, uses a traditional clearance system. Besides, it has enforced a new regulation that has increased shipping costs, Nepali traders said at an interaction on Sunday.
Since September 24, the Indian authorities have been allowing cargo movement from Kolkata port only in the late evening citing interference with traffic movement in the city in the day time.
Rajen Sharma, past president of the Nepal Freight Forwarder’s Association, said that importers should not only look at customs clearance fees, transportation distances and other logistics to reduce shipping costs.
Speaking at a programme organized by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Sharma said, “Simplification in clearing procedures and a timeframe for shipping goods are needed to cut costs.”
The Indian government has allowed Nepali importers to use Visakhapatnam port besides Kolkata and Haldia since February. However, Nepali importers have not been able to use Visakhapatnam till now.
The southern neighbour has also been considering allowing Nepali importers to use Paradeep in Orissa state to import petroleum products.
Tapan Sengupta, marketing head of Haldia International Container Terminal, said Nepali importers could benefit by using Haldia as the port was equipped with modern facilities and could hold almost twice the number of containers compared to Kolkata port. “Haldia can handle up to 500 loaded containers at a time.” Nepali traders used to ship almost all their cargos through Haldia port two decades ago.
After the Indian government handed over the port to Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) and Nepal-India Rail Service Agreement 2004 was signed, domestic traders have been using mostly Kolkata port to dispatch their shipments.
According to Sengupta, Nepali importers have been hit mainly by the increased inventory cost in Kolkata port. “Compared to Kolkata port, Haldia port offers advanced collection and payment systems which means the clearing process takes less time.”
Manoj Arora, president of the JM Baxi Group, said they were ready to coordinate
with CONCOR to arrange railway service between Haldia port and Birgunj-based inland container depot if Nepali traders were interested in using the port.