July 8: Nepali importers have shifted their focus from Kolkata Port to Visakhapatnam (Vizag) Port for overseas trade. Vigaz Port has gained popularity among Nepali importers as a lot of shipments have been diverted to Vishakhapatnam Port from Kolkata. The first shipment from the port based in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which formally opened for Nepal-bound cargo shipments in 2016, started in June 2017. In just two years after Nepal started utilising the port facility for its third country trade, over 40 percent of Nepal-bound cargo shipments have shifted to Vizag. In June, 2019, 30 racks of containers arrived to Birgunj Dry Port from Vizag compared to 14 from the Kolkata Port.
According to statistics provided by Nepal’s Consulate in Kolkata, around 100,000 containers entered Nepal in 2018 from third countries via India. Eknarayan Aryal, Nepal’s Consul General to Kolkata, told New Business Age that, currently, around 40 percent of Nepal-bound freight transport from third countries is from the Vizag Port. Kolkata is the nearest port city for Nepal from Birgunj. However, importers have been attracted to Visakhapatnam due to procedural hassles and lack of proper physical infrastructure at Kolkata Port. Importers cite increased cost of transportation from Kolkata Port after the port authority implemented electronic cargo tracking system (ECTS) to discourage paperwork as one of the major reasons behind their attraction towards Vizag Port. “Since the implementation of the ECTS a few months ago, shipping companies have imposed an additional charge of Rs 40,000 per container on Nepal-bound cargo shipment,” says Pradeep Kedia, president of Birjung Chamber of Commerce and Industries. According to him, it is a compulsion for Nepali importers to opt for Vizag Port which is twice the distance from Nepal compared to Kolkata. Kolkata is 704 kilometers away from Birgunj while the distance to Visakhapatnam is 1,400 kilometers.
Maersk Line, the Danish multinational container shipping company, which accounts for 30 percent of the transportation goods to Nepal from India, has been playing a role to persuade Nepali importers to shift to Vizag Port, said an official at the consulate in Kolkata. According to the source, Maersk convinced the importers to opt for Visakhapatnam citing easy paperwork at the privately-owned port.
Vizag Port, where the depth of water is 16 meters, can accommodate mother vessels that can carry up to 6,500 containers compared to the six meters deep Kolkata port which can only host smaller feeder vessels with carrying capacity of just 800 containers.