Sunday, August 11, 2013

Visakhapatnam could be alternative port for third country trade for Nepal

The Railway Service Agreement (ASA) and bilateral transit treaty between Nepal and India need to address the early usage of Visakhapatnam Port by Nepal as it could serve as an additional and alternative port for third country trade.
“Visakhapatnam Port could be additional and alternative port to Nepal for its third country trade but Nepal-India Transit Treaty and Railway Service Agreement should address it for smooth operation of the route from Visakhapatnam in India to Birgunj in Nepal,” according to former commerce secretary Purushottam Ojha.
Though, in 2009, the Indian government had approved Visakhapatnam Port as a second shipment point for handling container cargo from Nepal, the two governments are yet to exchange Letter of Credit for its implementation, he said, during Nepal-India Business Conclave on ‘Visakhapatnam Port: Additional Gateway for Nepal’s Export-Import Traffic’, here today.
Currently Nepal is using Kolkata Port for its third country trade.
As Nepal’s trade volume has seen increment in recent years, the governments of Nepal and India should address the port’s early usages in the bilateral trade treaty, according to chief operating officer of Visakha Container Terminal — the operator of Visakhapatnam Port – Sushil Mulchandani.
Though, Nepal had asked India to provide access to five more trade and transit routes between Vishakapatnam Port and four major customs points, rail route between Birgunj dry port and Vishakapatnam, and Rohanpur-Singhabad-Jogbani and Phulbari-Banglabandha routes, during the renewal of Nepal-India Transit Treaty last year, the treaty was renewed without any changes making Nepal impossible to use Vishakapatnam Port for the time being.
Opening of Visakhapatnam Port – that is 700-km far away from the Kolkata Port – would give Nepal an alternative trade route as the overall cost could not much differ, according to him.
“It would be, however, more feasible for Nepali exporters and importers as India's second largest port by volume of cargo handled, Visakhapatnam Port is more efficient, ultra modern, fully computerised in handling the container and non-containerised vessels,” Mulchandani said, claiming that Nepali traders could also check the status of their containers inside the port from Nepal by visiting the company's website.
The cost will not exceed compared to Kolkata Port as they will save Ocean Freight time, and Visakhapatnam Port is nearer to China – one of Nepal’s largest trading partners – and the US, he added. “Visakhapatnam Port is congestion free and follows scheduled shipment that will also save cost.”
Inviting Nepali traders to visit the port, he also claimed that his company could help arrange road and rail transportation up to the Nepal’s border from Andra Pradesh, where the Visakhapatnam Port is.
Currently, Nepal bound vessels, if starts from China are shipped via Singapore, to Visakhapatnam Port, and then to Kolkata Port in filler vessels from where it is routed to Birgunj Inland Container Depot (ICD), which takes more Ocean Freight time. But the containers could be routed to Birgunj ICD directly from Visakhapatnam Port saving the ocean freight time, Mulchandani suggested.
However, the traders and freight forwarders were of the view that the Birgunj ICD also needs to be upgraded and automated, apart from a special container railway from Visakhapatnam Port to the Birgunj ICD to take maximum benefit from the port. “Birgunj ICD needs to be automated and linked to Visakhapatnam Port for the smooth trade,” said Nepal Freight Forwarders Association president Rajan Sharma, on the occasion.

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