Traders elated at opening of Visakhapatnam PortTraders and industrialists in Birgunj, one of Nepal’s key industrial zones, are elated that they will be allowed to use India’s Vishakhapatnam Port for third country trade.
Traders and industrialists in Birgunj, one of Nepal’s key industrial zones, are elated that they will be allowed to use India’s Vishakhapatnam Port for third country trade.
The Indian port was opened to Nepal after the two countries signed a letter of exchange in New Delhi on Saturday.
Nepali traders have only been permitted to use Kolkata Port for third country trade, but they are not satisfied with it despite its proximity to Nepal because they say it is congested and chaotic. They have long been demanding an alternative route to the sea.
The Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been lobbying for opening Vishakhapatnam Port as an alternative gateway to the sea for the last one decade.
According to the traders, Kolkata Port has had its day. They are also unhappy at the multiple taxes charged by the port authority when Nepal-bound shipments are not cleared on time.
“Although Kolkata Port is very close to us geographically, an alternative port has become necessary due to various problems,” said Om Prakash Sikariya, a former president of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“India has been positive about allowing us to use Vishakhapatnam, but our government delayed the process,” he complained.
Sikariya added that due to heavy traffic at Kolkata Port, they have had to pay higher detention charges many times for failing to clear their cargo on time.
According to Pradeep Kedia, president of the Birgunj Chamber, Vishakhapatnam Port is very well managed compared to Kolkata Port. Traders will be saved the hassle they have been facing till now once they start using the new port. “The higher transportation cost involved when using Vishakhapatnam will not be an issue as the swift movement of goods will mean that we will not have to pay detention charges,” said Kedia.
Vishakhapatnam is a deepwater port and it can handle large ships, allowing Nepali traders to import bulk cargo. Similarly, the modern infrastructure at Vishakhapatnam Port will ensure swift movement of cargo.
The operational success of Vishakhapatnam Port, however, will depend on addressing a few procedural and logistical issues, according to freight forwarders.
Rajan Sharma, president of the Nepal Freight Forwarders Association, said that larger and faster vessels would be delivering cargo at Vishakhapatnam, and that there was a high possibility of the shipment arriving before the paperwork from Nepal due to possible delays. “Exporters send the documents only after the cargo has been loaded for shipment. After receiving the documents, importers have to get them endorsed by their bank and then send them to the port,” said Sharma. “Therefore, we should go for automation in document clearing.”
He added that the issue should be raised during the upcoming Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) meeting between Nepal and India.
Similarly, traders have asked that Nepal open a consulate in Vishakhapatnam without further delay to make the necessary preparations so that they can start using the port. “There is a consulate only in Kolkata, and it would be difficult to handle matters at Vishakhapatnam Port through it,” said Sharma.