Towards Modernisation: Ports taking steps to enhance efficiency and productivity

Ports taking steps to enhance efficiency and productivity

India has a 7,500 km long coastline, a strategic location on key international trade routes and 14,500 km of navigable and potentially navigable waterways. However, the low level of mechanisation is adversely affecting cargo handling at ports as well as restricting the sector’s potential to capitalise on its natural advantages.

The low level of mechanisation has meant a higher turnaround time and cargo dwell time at Indian ports as compared to international standards, and thus, higher logistics costs. It has also led to the diversion of transshipment cargo from India to other neighbouring ports such as Colombo and Dubai.

Over 58 per cent of the total dry bulk cargo at major ports is handled by non-mechanised means, requiring multiple levels of handling unlike mechanised handling.

With respect to the modernisation of port infrastructure, Indian ports, particularly the major ports, lack modern and mechanised means of cargo handling at present. Although the average turnaround time at these ports came down to 2.05 days during 2016-17 from 2.55 days during 2012-13, the figure for Indian ports still continues to trail the turnaround time benchmarks at major global ports. The average turnaround time at the Port Klang, Singapore and Rotterdam ports is between one and two days on average, sometimes even less than a day. In particular, in Hong Kong, the average turnaround time is less than 10 hours.

While other efficiency parameters have shown improvement, they are still far behind international standards.

The factors responsible for low mechanisation and productivity are many. Most of the equipment at major ports is obsolete, thereby severely constraining port capacity. The equipment, which was installed several years ago, now needs to be replaced with more modern equipment. Also, the shortage of trained and skilled manpower for operating advanced equipment is another area of concern for port operators.

A string of initiatives

The past two years have been quite eventful for the Indian port sector, particularly with regard to technology deployment at both major and non-major ports.

The replacement of manual forms by web-based e-forms, installation of container scanners and radio frequency identification (RFID)-based systems for gate automation, introduction of direct port delivery, and paperless transactions, digitisation of land records, automation of issuance of delivery orders, launch of single-

window interface for facilitating trade, integration of more seaports with the port community system (PCS) are some of the major initiatives that have been taken. Increasing automation has also led to an enhanced focus on developing smarter, green and sustainable ports. The adoption of new technologies is being driven by the need to improve operational efficiency and customer service, as well as to increase the utilisation of existing infrastructure

Launched in 2015, the Sagarmala programme ranks modernisation and ease of doing business among its key components. The programme focuses on promoting the ease of doing business, through the use of electronic channels for information exchange, installing container scanners, implementing RFID and gate automation, etc. For improving operational efficiency, a study to benchmark the performance of major Indian ports to that of comparable international ports was undertaken and the recommendations of the study were implemented. The study identified a total of 116 initiatives for implementation during 2016-18. As of March 2018, of the 116 initiatives, 86 have already been implemented.

The Ministry of Shipping (MoS) has implemented the PCS for providing electronic connectivity to the major ports. The PCS is a centralised, web-based, online, real-time, single-window platform, and message exchange gateway for port community stakeholders to increase the security and efficiency of port operations. All the 12 major ports have been integrated with the PCS. Further, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Mumbai port are in the process of upgrading a comprehensive PCS to increase port efficiency and the Cochin Port Trust has made use of a vessel call number and import general manifest link facility in PCS mandatory, with effect from September 1, 2017.

Besides this, several port-specific initiatives aimed at easing congestion at ports, reducing turnaround time, and providing a facility to track vehicles on a real-time basis have also been taken. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Container Terminal (JNPCT) has migrated its terminal operating system to the SPARCS N4 platform, developed by Navis. The N4 implementation process will be managed by Cargotec Corporation utilising Navis’s methodology and project management tools.

JNPT has installed radiological detection equipment at all exit gates. A total of 28 vehicle monitoring systems have been installed at road and rail exit gates. In addition, DP World has introduced automated gates at its terminal at JNPT. Besides, the Jawaharlal Nehru Custom House has launched a Refund SMS Seva for all refund claims filed at the custom house wherein the claimant will be intimated through an SMS at every stage of refund processing.

With a view to making cargo handling operations round the clock, Mumbai port implemented 24-hour cargo operations in January 2018. The decision has been taken to improve the productivity and throughput of the port and thereby reduce the turnaround time of vessels.

In order to eliminate dual checking of containers, minimise transaction at gates and thereby reduce dwell time and ease congestion, an RFID system has been implemented at all major ports. The Visakhapatnam Port Trust opened an RFID access gate at East Quay (EQ)-7 and the general cargo berth gate at the port premises in September 2017 and Kamarajar port commissioned its RFID system with effect from April 1, 2017. Paradip port has had its system in place since the past one year.

Krishnapatnam Port Company Limited installed the first baggage scanner system at the port in January 2017 with the aim of increasing containerised cargo volumes at the port. The new facility will also ensure safety and security at the port. It has also implemented e-Xpressway for its container operations. An electronic platform, e-Xpressway, provides cloud-based online access to vessel operators, container operators, terminal operators, freight forwarders and other stakeholders for generating and processing forms and for gating containers in and out of the terminal. In February 2017, another non-major terminal operator, APM Terminals Pipavav implemented an electronic sub-manifest transshipment permit (e-SMTP) at its port for paper-free customs clearance. This new system enables quicker turnaround of cargo, thereby resulting in 12 to 48 hours of savings every week.

With the purpose of facilitating the implementation of the Shipbuilding Financial Assistance Policy for Indian Shipyards, the MoS has revamped software and released updated guidelines. The updated web application also generates a wider choice of international valuers to carry out the valuation of vessels.

DMICDC Logistics Data Services Limited has launched the logistics data bank (LDB) project across terminals at JNPT and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited. With this, the LDB service is now available at 10 port terminals in the western industrial corridor (five port terminals of JNPT and five port terminals in Mundra and Hazira).

The way forward

Going forward, the opportunity for modernisation and mechanisation at Indian ports is huge. Sagarmala also lays great emphasis on modernisation and mechanisation. Ports are looking at setting up specialised high capacity berths, supported by state-of-the-art equipment and skilled and trained manpower. According to India Infrastructure Research, there are 12 upcoming modernisation and mechanisation projects at major ports, which are expected to add a capacity of more than 41 million tonnes per annum at an investment of more than Rs 28.9 billion. The increasing levels of mechanisation are surely expected to bring about an improvement in efficiency levels and increase cargo handling at ports.

Garima Arora