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Sirsiya Dry Port stuck in a rut

- SHANKAR ACHARYA, PARSA

Nov 12, 2017-It has been more than a decade since Sirsiya Dry Port in Birgunj came into operation but the only Dry Port in Nepal with railway facility is yet to operate under full capacity. Built with $802-million loan from the World Bank, Sirsiya Dry Port is the country’s first and only port with railway connectivity. The Dry Port is directly connected to the sea port at Kolkata.

Nearly 650 factories in the Birgunj-Pathlaiya Industrial Corridor import 50 percent of their raw material through this port. Cargos from third countries also come through this port.  The Dry Port has the capacity to handle 70,000 containers annually but currently, only 18,000 to 20,000 containers pass through the port in a year. 

Moreover, the Indian railway’s failure to prioritise third country imports to Nepal and low quality railway service has prompted Nepali importers to choose road routes over the Dry Port. 

According to the industrialists, cargo loaded containers remain at Kolkota port for long time due to high traffic congestion and importers are forced to pay late fees to the shipping companies for using their containers for longer period. Stakeholders blamed the inefficiency of the company operating the Dry Port as one of the major reason behind underperformance which is one of the country’s best infrastructure. 

Pradip Kedia, president of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry complained that Himalayan Terminal, a Nepal-India joint venture company which is operating the Dry Port has failed to provide even the bare minimum in terms of facility to importers. “The joint-venture company has placed old cranes and stackers to load and unload the containers,” said Kedia. “It takes more than a week to repair such equipment if they break down.”

Two out of the 12 railway tracks at the Dry Port are yet to come under operation due to an alleged design fault that was overlooked during their construction and open yards at the port are not covered in shade, according to Kedia.

“Also the Indian railway is treating the third country cargo to Nepal like its domestic cargo causing delay in transportation. As we fail to return the cargo containers to shipping companies within 14 days, we have to pay hefty fines,” said Kedia. “So, we are forced to think about road ways as the alternative.”  

According to Devi Prasad Bhandari, chief of customs office at Dry Port, the government must request the Indian government to provide better railway service to Nepali cargo. “Also the government should take initiative to reduce the time taken by the Indian custom office to clear the Nepali cargo through bilateral talks,” said Bhandari. 

Published: 12-11-2017 10:48

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