Nepal pushes ahead with creation of a national shipping line

Landlocked Nepal is pushing ahead with plans to create a national shipping line. Prime minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli this week opened the Nepal Ship Office in Ekantakuna just to the south of the capital, Katmandu, near the banks of the 600 km-long Bagmati river. If Oli’s vision becomes reality the world’s only non-quadrilateral flag could eventually be seen in oceans around the globe.

Oli, a communist in his second term as prime minister, has long championed the creation of a national shipping line.

“Ships flying the Nepali flag will sail in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean,” he said during his first stint as prime minister three years ago. Oli aims to buy ships for riverine trade through the mountainous country for onward shipment through Indian ports, likely by rail connections.

The prime minister’s chief advisor Bishnu Rimal tweeted an image this week of a poster issued by the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport that read: “A ship office is being established for the first time in the history of Nepal. His Excellency Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is inaugurating the office. Today a dream is taking its first step. Where there is will, there is way.”

Landlocked countries and international shipping have a colourful history. Switzerland is home to the mighty Mediterrnanean Shipping Company (MSC), a giant in the liner and cruiseship trades. Elsewhere, while Bolivia lost its coastline to neighbour Chile in a war from 140 years ago, it still has naval offices in every major town and its ageing navy is based on Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest lake, which it shares with Peru. Mongolia, meanwhile, became infamous in the world of shipping for its flag of convenience, whose poor performance even made it onto the New York Times.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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