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Nepal-bound rail freight suspended

  • Congestion in Kolkata
- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu
800 ready-to-move containers from third countries have been stuck in Kolkata port

Sep 24, 2015-India has suspended the movement of Nepal-bound rail freight from Kolkata for two days, citing heavy traffic congestion and unrest in the Tarai, Nepal’s Consulate General in Kolkata has said.

As a result, 800 ready-to-move containers have been stuck in Kolkata port. The containers are carrying 70,000 tonnes of coal and 30,000 tonnes of chemical fertilizer, among other products, imported from third countries, according to the Consulate General. Kolkata port is the only transit route provided by India to Nepal for the shipment of its sea cargo from third countries.

Chandra Ghimire, Nepal’s consul general in Kolkata, told the Post over the phone that the Indian authorities had restricted the movement of containers for Wednesday and Thursday which has resulted in a large number of Birgunj containers being stuck on the track bound for Birgunj dry port.

According to Ghimire, the southern neighbour used to impose such restrictions occasionally in the past when there was traffic congestion on the rail network.

Although Nepal-bound goods have been stuck in Kolkata for more than a month due to the unrest in Nepal, this is the first time that the Indian authorities have stopped shipments citing the Tarai unrest, he said.  Panic buying broke out in Kathmandu after India halted the movement of Nepal-bound oil tankers from Monday night until Tuesday afternoon. Disruption in supplies has followed reports of Indian displeasure at the promulgation of new constitution in Nepal. Apart from the rail freight, a large number of container trucks carrying Nepali imports are stuck in many parts of India, particularly in the border regions. According to Ghimire, 400 container trucks are stranded on various Indian highways.

“As goods are not being cleared timely through the customs points due to general strikes in the Tarai, clearing agents are also reluctant to visit Kolkata port to clear the imported consignments,” he said.

As protests continue in the Tarai, importers say they have been compelled to pay detention charges due to transportation delays. Rajan Sharma, president of the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association, claimed that demurrage owed to shipping agencies in India had swelled to Rs4-5 billion in the last one month. Sharma said many importers had been able to receive their consignments only after 18-20 days from the day they were dispatched from Kolkata port.

“Shipping agencies’ hesitation to deliver containers from Kolkata port, together with shortage of containers and delayed return of empty containers from Birgunj dry port have led to added financial burden on importers,” said Sharma. He called for joint efforts by the government and private bodies to lobby for cancellation of the detention charge.

Deepak Lohiya, a Biratnagar-based manufacturer, said they were forced to pay detention charges of $20-100 per day per container. “If containers are not dispatched from Kolkata port, they are transferred to the stock yard, and it takes at least 10 days to get them out of there,” said Lohiya, adding that they had been facing similar problems for more than a month.

Consul General Ghimire said they had written to shipping lines and the port authority in Kolkata, requesting for time extension before detention charges are levied to 45 days from the present 21 days because of the ongoing problems.

Published: 24-09-2015 08:18

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