More than 600 Nepal-bound cargo are still stuck at Kolkata Port as disgruntled customs clearing agents continue their protest. They are dissatisfied by the government gaining transshipment privilege at the Indian port and implementing the electronic cargo tracking system.
Since last Tuesday, the date on which Nepal enforced the system at Kolkata port, customs agents at the port have been disrupting the movement of Nepal-bound cargo.
According to freight forwarders, over the period, the agents handed over only four to five containers to the Container Corporation of India, the shipping company offering its service at the sea port.
Rabi Shankar Sainju, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, said the authority was negotiating with customs agents to ensure hassle free movement. According to him, the Kolkata based Consulate General office has taken the lead to hold talks with the protesting group.
Electronic tracking uses the Global Positioning System, a satellite-based radio navigation system, and allows the shipper to keep track of consignments. Under the transshipment privilege, the containers are directly sent to the Birgunj dry port where they can receive customs clearance.
Previously, in the conventional system, the cargo was required to undergo clearance at the entry port followed by inspections at around seven Indian check posts. With the delay, Nepali importers, who used to receive 14 to 21 days turnaround time from the shipping company, were compelled to bear excess financial burden from the huge demurrage charges.
Agents are upset by the loss of income that they used to earn by using the manual system and expressed their dissatisfaction by stopping the movement of goods. Most of the agents have been disrupting the movement of entire containers that are carrying goods from the third countries.
Nepal has been receiving transshipment privileges and using electronic cargo tracking at Vishakhapatnam port since August, and this was extended to Haldiya and Kolkata ports with the consent of Indian authorities.
Currently, around 400 customs agents are engaged in clearing Nepal-bound cargo at Kolkata port who are paid a commission for their services. Nepal receives 200-300 containers per week via the Indian sea port.
Rajan Sharma, past president of the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association, said the shipping company could not transport the cargo after the customs clearing agents denied handing over the consignment to them. “Although the agents have agreed in principle to allow the movement, they are still being reluctant to hand over the concerned documents to the shipping company,” Sharma said.
Prakash Singh Karki, president of the association, said cargo movement is likely to be resumed from Monday after the customs agents gave a green signal to the authority. “However, it is unclear on what basis the agents have consented to call off their protest,” Karki said.