Agents refuse to release cargo until dues paid

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu

Feb 27, 2016-

Shipping agents at Kolkata port have refused to release more than 600 Nepal-bound containers until importers clear outstanding dues, the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association (NFFA) said.

Nepali traders owe an estimated Rs6 billion in detention charges that started piling up after their cargo was stranded at the port for months due to the Tarai unrest and Indian embargo. The agitation crippled transportation in Nepal’s southern plains, 

and many traders were not able to return the containers to the shipping agents on time, incurring large detention charges.

NFFA President Rajan Sharma said the shipping agents refused to release new consignments after the traders failed to clear old dues. He added that they had asked for payment of the detention charges that accumulated between August 30 and November 30. “The shipping agents charge a late fee of $80-$114 daily per consignment if the containers are not returned on time,” he said. 

Containers containing goods imported from third countries have to be returned to Kolkata port within two weeks after their arrival at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Birgunj. According to Sharma, the return time depends on the agreement between the shipping agent and the trader based on the nature of the consignment. 

“Normally, traders have to send back the empty containers within seven to 28 days, however, the deadline may vary depending on the nature of the cargo,” he said. Sharma said the shipping agents had agreed to waive up to 25-90 percent of the detention charges following negotiations a few days ago. A team led by Dinesh Shrestha, vice-president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, had talked with the shipping agents a month ago for a possible waiver of the detention charges.  

Most traders, citing the unusual situation that had arisen due to the Indian blockade, have been demanding that the agents waive the charges completely.    

As per the Nepal-India Transit Treaty, goods imported from third countries have to customs cleared at Kolkata port. The traders have been using the containers of a number of shipping companies to transport imported goods. “If Nepali traders had been handling the shipments, this problem would not have occurred,” Sharma said. 

Nepal has long been asking India to provide transhipment facilities at the Nepal-India border, but the Indian government has not agreed to do so. Sharma said that the government should put this issue on the agenda at the upcoming Inter-Governmental Committee meeting.

Published: 27-02-2016 09:06

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