Increasing competition has led ports to focus on improving efficiency and productivity through modernisation and mechanisation of their facilities as well as digitalisation of operations. To this end, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) has undertaken various modernisation and digitalisation initiatives to reduce dwell time and transaction costs. In addition, ease of doing business has remained one of the key focus areas for the ministry.
Port Community System
The Port Community System (PCS1x), a cloud-based new-generation technology with a user-friendly interface, was launched by the Indian Ports Association in 2018. The PCS1x has digitised processes such as electronic invoices,
electronic payments and electronic delivery orders for physical release of cargo by custodians. Further, the processes of generating electronic bills of lading and enabling the letter of credit process to be conducted digitally have already been implemented in the PCS1x. There is also going to be complete integration between PCS1x and the Indian Customs electronic data interchange (EDI) gateway (ICEGATE). Partial integration has been completed: PCS1x is integrated with ICEGATE via the SSH File Transfer Protocol for existing messages. PCS 1x-ICEGATE will enable application programming integration for sea cargo manifests and transhipment regulations messages. Further, the process to bootstrap PCS1x into the national logistics portal-marine (NLP-Marine) is already under way. This will act as a unified digital platform for all maritime stakeholders. The NLP-Marine + PCS1x platform is envisaged as the central hub for all interactions with various stakeholders such as ports, terminals, shipping lines/agents, container freight stations, customs brokers, importers and exporters.
Indian Customs Compliance Information Portal
The Central Board for Indirect Taxes and Customs launched the Indian Customs Compliance Information Portal (CIP) in August 2021. The objective is to provide free access to information on all customs procedures and regulatory compliance for nearly 12,000 customs tariff items, by adding descriptions or the customs tariff heading. In addition, CIP is a facilitation tool developed to empower business as well as to provide up-to-date information on the legal and procedural requirements of customs and partner government agencies (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, All India Council for Technical Education Quality Improvement Schemes, plant quarantine information system, drug controller, etc.) for carrying out
imports and exports. Moreover, CIP is a pan-India map, showing all customs seaports, airports, land customs stations, etc.
Enterprise Business System
An Enterprise Business System is being implemented at major ports in Mumbai, Chennai, Deendayal, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia port) at a project cost of about Rs 3.2 billion to provide a digital port ecosystem that will adopt leading international practices without losing its alignment to existing local needs. A total of 2,474 processes were rationalised, harmonised, optimised and standardised, to arrive at a final re-engineered process count of 162 processes.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology plays an important role in tracking assets, equipment and machinery over long distances and in sizeable numbers. The RFID solution has been implemented at all major ports to enable seamless movement of traffic across port gates, including substantial reductions in documentation checks.
The MoPSW inaugurated new radars and a vessel traffic management system (VTMS) at Cochin port in November 2021. The VTMS that was built at the Cochin port in 2009 has been upgraded with a state-of-the-art system that includes two new radars, one automatic identification system base station, three VHF radios, and associated software and hardware. By monitoring and controlling shipping movements, the VTMS has become an important instrument for enhancing the safety of port navigation. The technology also improves port water security by identifying and tracking all vessels transiting through the port.
The Deendayal Port Authority recently commissioned West Gate-2, the second gate of the e-Drishti Project Phase I – RFID-Based Access Control System for entry-exit into and from the port. The port’s management aims to cover all entry-exit gates with an RFID-based access control system, whose completion will ensure enhanced security; remove bottlenecks for seamless movement of traffic across port gates; ensure tracking and tracing of men, material, vehicles, equipment and other assets; ensure collection of revenue as per the notified rates; enable geofencing of port infrastructure; and automate and speed up movement and activity within the port. The port authority recently launched a mobile application for the prestigious e-Drishti project. Besides, an advanced CCTV network was commissioned to enhance security coverage at the port.
Further, the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Trust (erstwhile Kolkata Port Trust) became the first major port to inaugurate radio over internet protocol (ROIP) in October 2021. The ROIP system will encompass the entire Hooghly river estuary from Kolkata to the Sandheads. The base stations will be located at Kolkata, Hugli Point, Haldia and Sagar Pilot Station.
Container scanners facilitate non-destructive methods of inspecting and identifying goods in transportation systems. At ports, these scanners ensure efficiency in operations and also improve security. Major ports in India are in the process of installing huge size container scanners so as to obviate the need for manual examination of individual containers. Already, several scanners are operational at various ports.
The customs department has commissioned a mobile X-ray container scanner for speedy clearance of containerised export-import cargo at New Mangalore port in December 2021. The container scanner is part of the ease of doing business initiatives undertaken by the government to reduce dwell time for the release of cargo. The mobile scanner enables the speediest clearance of cargo with minimum physical intervention. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) also inaugurated two mobile X-ray scanners at the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal and APM Terminals Mumbai (APMT) in June 2021. These scanners help enhance efficiency and considerably reduce import dwell time due to independent scanning of import containers. JNPT also procured three mobile container scanners, one each for the three terminals of JNPT – the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Container Terminal, DP World and APMT – through the Indian Ports Association and installed them at a total cost of Rs 1.01 billion. Further, the Paradip Port Trust has installed a mobile X-ray container scanning system (MXCS) near the Paradip International Cargo Terminal. The MXCS has been installed at a cost of Rs 300 million and is expected to reduce the physical examination and dwell time of containers at the port; and facilitate the movement of unshredded metallic scrap material in containers throughout the port, thereby meeting the longstanding requirement of the hinterland industries. The scanner can scan up to 25 containers per hour, enabling traders to directly move out their containers with upgraded security and zero hassle. Meanwhile, after the successful trial run of the MXCS, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board issued a licence in August 2021 to Paradip Customs for the regular operation of the system.
In a recent development, the Haldia Dock Complex of Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata, has soft-launched its comprehensive ease of doing business portal. This portal was developed by the National Informatics Centre, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and is specifically meant to assist the trade. The portal will be available round the clock and shall empower registered customs agents of the port to upload the documentation required for import and export processes for both cargo and container services. Moreover, the portal allows port users to download the financial statements of their port revolving deposit accounts for a period of 90 days.
The way forward
A new era has begun for the administration of major ports in India, in which they will have greater autonomy in decision-making, adopting the landlord model of development and providing world-class port infrastructure.
Going forward, digital technologies will make significant headway into the ports sector. Further, artificial intelligence and blockchain will ease transaction and real-time based tracking. The adoption of 5G technologies is also expected to further enhance the efficiency levels at Indian ports.