Ritesh Tripathi, Republica Daily, 2 Aug 2017
More than 96 percent of containers that enter Nepal carrying third-country imports from Indian port have been returning to India empty for the past 13 years as they do not get goods for the return leg.
As Nepal’s export to third countries is very low, Nepal is sending containers empty. According to Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Sirsiya of Birgunj, of the 100 containers bringing import country goods to Nepal, only four containers return with exportable goods.
A total of 33,196 containers brought import goods to Nepal in Fiscal Year 2016/17. Of them, only 1,254 containers returned with country’s export goods, according to the office. A total of 31,942 containers, which is 96.22 percent of the total containers, returned empty.
The situation has remained more or less the same since the ICD in Sirsiya came into operation in 2004/2005. Of the 237,397 containers that brought import goods to the Sirsiya ICD in the past 13 years, only 8,638 containers carried back Nepal’s exports to the Indian port, according to officials of the ICD in Sirsiya.
Bishnukant Chaudhary, CEO of Himalayan Terminals which operates the ICD, said the number of containers has been increasing with each passing year, reflecting the country’s rising imports. “As containers have to return empty, we are forced to pay for their return journey as well,” Pradip Kedia, former president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI), told Republica. “As shipping company would not want to face deficit by transporting containers to Nepal, we persuade them by promising to pay for the return journey as well.”
Chaudhary also said that shipping company charges importers for two-way journey because they know that most of the containers will not get cargo while returning.
Om Prakash Sharma, president of BCCI, said their import cost could go down if there is rise in exports. “This is happening because the government has not taken any initiative to increase exports,” he added.
Nepal mostly imports goods like plastic mulch, iron, chemical fertilizers, plastic goods, spices, liquor, several kinds of beans, soft drinks, betel nuts, machineries, lubricant, cosmetics, tea, coffee, cold drinks, sugar, carpet, paper, chemical, aluminum and industrial raw materials from foreign containers. It exports limited products like juice, jam, toothpastes and handicrafts, among others.
Meanwhile, number of containers bringing import goods to Sirsiya ICD increased by 14 percent to 33,196 in 2016/17. In the 2015/16, 20,188 containers had brought import goods to Nepal from the Indian ports. To bring containers from Indian ports, the Sirsiya ICD used 383 racks in 2016/16. Each rack contains 90 containers (20 ft).
Meanwhile, one rack of containers brought import goods from Visakhapatnam Port of Andhra Pradesh in the last fiscal year. India and Nepal have agreed the port as an alternative to the Kolkata port.