Nepali shippers prefer Haldia to Kolkata portNepali freight forwarders on Sunday said that Haldia, a major river port and industrial hub in the Indian state of West Bengal, could be the best alternative for shipping goods to Nepal as Kolkata port has been facing a number of problems.
Nepali freight forwarders on Sunday said that Haldia, a major river port and industrial hub in the Indian state of West Bengal, could be the best alternative for shipping goods to Nepal as Kolkata port has been facing a number of problems.
They 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 operation.
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.