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Kolkata port taking the battle for Nepalese importers to Vizag

Abhishek Law/Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata. April 4 | Updated on April 05, 2018

Vinit Kumar, Chairman, Kolkata Port Trust

Setting up container freight station for Nepalese customers

As competition from the Vizag port is intensifying, the Kolkata Port Trust is taking measures to woo Nepalese importers by improving transparency, reducing the turnaround time and ironing out procedural hassles.

According to Vinit Kumar, chairman of the Kolkata Port Trust, setting up a container freight station dedicated to the Nepalese customers is also under active consideration.

Vizag is located 1,400 km from Birgunj in Nepal, which is twice the distance from Kolkata. India opened the Vizag port to Nepalese users in March 2017. Beginning June 2017, when the first container train rolled out from Vizag, the port has handled nearly 5,000 boxes (TEUs) imported by Nepalese buyers.

Now, three container trains leave Vizag for Birgunj every week, carrying 1,000 boxes a month.

The gain to Vizag is the potential loss to Kolkata, which recorded 3-4 per cent growth in container handling to 75,000 boxes in 2017-18. The port’s share on bulk cargo, however, remaining in tact.

“We haven’t lost cargo. But we lost the growth potential,” Kumar told BusinessLine.

Barriers from customs

Taking a cue from the complaints of Nepalese users, the port is giving full importance to improving transparency. “We are putting up all rates related to container handling on the website. A liaison officer has been appointed for the Nepal cargo,” he said.

To reduce procedural hassles, the port has reduced the number of forms for imports from 12 to one. There are no forms required to be shown at the gates for the exports beginning April 1.

Sources in KoPT allege that while the port is taking steps to reduce procedural hassles, the Customs is putting up fresh barriers. Beginning April 1, the Customs is going in for manual check of vehicles and containers entering and exiting the port.

Access to Bangladesh

The port is keen to latchto on the Bangladeshi proposal for third country access through Kolkata port systems — including both Kolkata and Haldia — as part of the initiative to shift the bilateral trade from road to inland water.

According to Kumar, considering Bangladesh’s low share of exports in the $7.5-billion bilateral trade, the lack of return cargo is a major hurdle in making inland water transport cost effective. To overcome this problem, shipping lines are keen to have a share of Bangladesh’s third country exportables as return cargo.

Published on April 05, 2018

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