Growing Digitalisation: Transformative role of technology in logistics and ports

Transformative role of technology in logistics and ports

Krishna B. Kotak, Chairman, JM Baxi and Company

In today’s world, different forms of computing using desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phablets have become an integral part of our routine life. It is difficult to think of life without these technologies. It was in 1944 that the first full-sized computer called Mark I was developed. It was 17 metres long, and weighed about 5 tonnes, and could calculate five times faster than a human. It was the first of many that would start off generations of computer development and growth.

The last four generations of computers witnessed an upgradation in the form of RAM (random access memory), hard drive memory, operating systems and software. Finally, we have reached the fifth generation of computers operating on iOS, Windows and Android. At the same time, internet bandwidths have moved from dial-up speeds (kilobits to tens of kilobits per second) to broadband speeds (often measured in megabits per second). New access technologies such as digital subscriber loops and dedicated fibre have raised consumer expectations of internet bandwidth.

With globalisation, the maritime sector, especially logistics and the port sector, is playing a crucial role in driving the Indian economy. India has improved its position in the logistics performance index; however, lack of integration amongst stakeholders, slow adoption of technology, operational inefficiencies and poor asset utilisation continue to distress the sector.

Trade and logistics service providers in India have to face several issues. One of the major concerns is multiple coordination points involving customs, shipping lines, container freight stations (CFSs), inland container depots (ICDs), port terminals and stamp duty payments along with handling too many documentation at these locations resulting in excess time consumption. Another concern is the time required for customs clearance at Indian ports, which is around eight days whereas in a developed country like France, customs gives advance clearance for goods prior to the entry of ships into the port in less than five minutes. To add to it, payments through demand draft, cheques or cash delay the cargo clearance process further.

A one-stop digital platform like Portall can prove helpful in multiple ways and support the shipping, maritime and logistics industry to combat the aforementioned challenges. The primary objective of Portall is to increase the ease-of- doing business. Portall provides customers with a seamless interface to ensure complete transparency and build trust on the entire export/ import processes with real-time updates, status tracking, alerts and notifications. A dashboard in the system allows users to check their shipment status and plan further activities. Portall also has an online payment gateway.

CLEAR powered by Portall focuses on digital customs clearance solutions. Stakeholders in the supply chain can use this platform for their customs clearance and solve other logistics problems pertaining to rail and road transportation, ICDs, CFSs and domestic warehousing (delivering a door-to-door service for the new age).

In India, the automation of trade logistics business processes at ports has not taken an integrated approach. The government has been running the port community system (PCS) since 2007; however, it is just an electronic data interchange platform to exchange messages. The new cloud-based, blockchain-ready, pan-India – PCS 2.0 supported by Portall will be a game changer as it will reduce paperwork and cut transaction time and costs. The new PCS 2.0 is a neutral and open electronic platform that enables the secure exchange of information between public and private stakeholders to improve the competitive position of seaport communities. It efficiently optimises, manages and automates port and logistics processes through a single submission of data and connecting of transport and logistics chains.

Globally, the logistics sector is undergoing a quiet revolution backed by digitalisation. New technologies like the internet of things (IoT), machine learning and e-payments are driving this change. The industry is still at the early stages of digitalisation, and most of the players are yet to achieve substantial progress. Success can be achieved only through digital integration. Technology is going to be the key driver of changes. A combination of blockchain, artificial intelligence and IoT, machine learning, data mining is going to make the journey of a ship or truck more secure and efficient by allowing various players of the logistics ecosystem to interact with each other seamlessly. Seamless and secured interconnection with intelligent firewalls is going to revolutionise the way we transport goods.