Finally, the much-awaited Chobhar Dry Port has come into operation. Connected by road, this new facility is expected to help boost Nepal’s export-import trade. The port now operates as a centre for the trans-shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations. Rather than goods being loaded and unloaded in such ports, shipping containers can just be transferred again between ship and road vehicle or ship and train. The container may be transferred again between road and rail elsewhere and the goods are only loaded or unloaded at their point of origin or final destination. The port receives goods, processes them through customs, inspects and consolidates containers. Spread over an area of 65,000 square metres, the Chobhar Dry Port has the capacity to accommodate 500 containers and 500 trucks. It boasts of quarantine, security, operator company office, banks and other essential services, three warehouses, three appraisal shades, stuffing and de-stuffing shade, weighing machines, electricity sub-station and boundary light, facilities that will enable containers from sea ports in India to directly arrive here to clear quarantine and other customs-related procedures. These facilities and services are sure to help in managing competition for space not only at the export points within the country, but also at the seaports, through which imported goods make their way to the destination country.
The port has come into operation formally from Wednesday following its inauguration by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Deuba said that the port would facilitate trade in a transparent manner and promote sustainable development through trade facilitation. He asked the government as well as private sector agencies to leverage the facility to enhance export. He also expressed his pledge to remove barriers, if any, to create a more congenial environment for trade facilitation. Those words are positive for the private sector entrepreneurs and businessmen, who have expressed hope that the facility will surely contribute to enhancing export competitiveness of their products. They, however, called on the government to expedite the construction of the Kathmandu-Terai Expressway and to expand the railway service – two crucial infrastructures with potential to vastly improve the importance of the port – in order to make optimum use of this facility.
Evidently, the dry port holds a lot of significance for the landlocked country like Nepal. Locked out of sea-route, through which a vast majority of containers and super containers with finished goods head for various global destinations, we can circumvent such a difficult geographical location to a significant extent if we leverage the port and build other necessary facilities suggested by the private sector. The port is expected to be helpful for reducing the ever-growing trade deficit the country has been experiencing. With every passing year, we are producing more and more electricity, the fuel needed to manufacture goods, among others. With the construction of the port, manufacturers can now make use of the relatively cheap price of our electricity to produce goods at a competitive price. The country’s lower labour cost is another advantage. The country cannot heavily rely on remittances to achieve prosperity forever given how tumultuous past two years have been for the global economy since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as long as we manufacture compelling products coupled with the reasonable price tagged on them, we don’t have to struggle much to find their buyers. The port must be utilised for the country’s trade facilitation.