India ranked 130 (out of 189 countries) in 2016 on the ease of doing business parameter, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2017, moving up four places from the adjusted ranking of 134 in 2015.
The central government is taking several steps to address the problems impeding the ease of doing business at ports across the country. In this regard, a committee constituted by the Ministry of Shipping has suggested 10 key measures pertaining to customs, ports and other departments. While some of the measures have already been implemented, the remaining are planned to be undertaken by March 2017.
Progress under these 10 measures is discussed below:
- Elimination of Form nos. 11 and 13: These forms are required to be submitted for taking trucks and cargo inside the port area. A new system has been introduced for the e-submission of forms, thereby eliminating the need for manual submission.
- Accommodation of laboratories in the port area: A lot of time is wasted in getting certifications from laboratories since they are situated away from ports. Ports have now been asked to give land and built-up space for laboratories so that they are situated within the port premises and all certifications can be obtained at the port area itself.
- Integration of import general manifest (IGM) filing system with terminal operating system: Measures have been taken to integrate the IGM filing system with the terminal operating system and other available systems, ensuring easy filing and processing, both with the customs and port authorities.
- Direct port delivery (DPD) system: Under the DPD system, imported containers are directly delivered to pre-approved clients instead of waiting at container freight stations for clearance.
- Reducing fee and charges: Ports have been asked to give preference to rail as a mode of transport, which is cost-effective as compared to roadways. Following this, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has reduced its railway handling charges to Rs 844 per twenty-foot equivalent unit for rail cargo. Road handling charges have also been reduced accordingly.
- Installation of container scanners: All major ports have been asked to install container scanners for the speedy movement of containers. Tendering has started for seven mobile scanners, four drive-through (road) scanners and one drive-through (rail) scanner.
- Automation of issuance of delivery orders: New software has been installed at JNPT and other ports to implement the issuance of e-delivery orders.
- Radio frequency identification tag-based gate automated systems: Under this system, gate entry will be automated, thereby easing the processing and transit time at port gates. The system has been installed at all the major ports and is expected to be fully functional by end-February 2017.
- Creation of a logistics data bank (LDB): The LDB service of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation Limited is expected to make tagging of containers and viewing of container movement easy at all ports.
- Removal of bottlenecks for rail-road connectivity: Internal evacuation of cargo needs to be streamlined so that the total time taken at the port can be reduced to the bare minimum level.
Apart from these, a committee constituted by the joint secretary, customs, has recommended 42 measures – 20 export-related measures and 22 import-related ones – for the reduction of dwell time of cargo clearance and the cost associated with the same.
The measures recommended to reduce dwell time and cost of exports are giving advance notice of shutdown of gate terminal, providing gate CCTV feeds to customs, expanding the scope of direct port entry to include factory-loaded containers, doing away with the presence of customs officers and terminal operator officials at the entry gate, developing a vehicle booking system in the port community system (PCS), bringing down the gate window time from 5 days to 4 and then to 3 days, etc.
The measures to reduce dwell time and cost of imports are constituting a special DPD cell by customs authorities which will provide 24×7 services and undertake rake inspection while loading the rakes; the introduction of mobile wallets for the payment of customs duty 24×7; increasing the volumes of DPD; advance filing of import declarations and advance payment of duties to customs; interconnecting customs electronic data interchange system with the PCS and terminal operating system; etc.
Once implemented, these measures are expected to go a long way in mitigating the various issues faced by the ports.
Based on a presentation by Janardhana Rao, Managing Director, Indian Ports Association