caused in handling EXIM cargo on account of the current manual process, it
sought the commerce ministry's intervention for issuing advisory to
departments, including customs, and the Indian Banks Association for accepting
'electronically generated trade documentation'.
India has 12 major
ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore,
Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam,
Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) that handled nearly 705 million tonnes
(MT) cargo in 2019-20.
Service providers face difficulties in discharge of their services due
general lockdown restrictions and the requirement of social distancing
faced in handling of EXIM cargo, Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna in a letter
to Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said the inability of service providers
such as courier agencies, general lockdown restrictions and the requirement of
social distancing are causing severe impediment in issuance, delivery and
despatch of physical format based trade documentation, which is directly
impacting the release of import containers and cargo.
Current manual process creates a high level of risk with the
contagious nature of COVID-19 and causes considerable delays in release of
Stating that the
current manual process that requires surrender of original bill of lading (BL)
at the shipping lines office, collection of paper invoice and payment by cash
and collection of paper delivery order issued by then shipping line add up to
11.5 hours of person-to person contact on an average, Krishna said it not only
creates a high level of risk with the contagious nature of COVID-19 but results
in considerable delays in release of cargo.
Considering the present circumstances on
account of COVID-19, the Indian Ports Association (IPA) under the aegis of the
Ministry of Shipping has taken steps towards digitising some of trade related
process through implementation of Port Community System (PCS), the letter said.
PCS was launched in December 2018 and has
managed to digitise the major part in port related activities including
e-invoice, epayment and and electronic delivery order (e-DO).
Bill of lading (BL), a critical component,
however is still missing and trade bodies under the umbrella of the Federation
of Indian Logistics Association (FILA) have supported the IPA initiative of eBL
and identified providers like CargoX, the letter mentions.
"I would request you to consider issuing
suitable guidelines and advisory consistent with international conventions on
the subject to Departments as well as to Indian Bank Association for banks in
India by accepting 'electronically generated trade documentation'.
'stakeholders of the trade industry' such as carriers, exporters and importers
can also be issued mandate to adopt and use such platforms for 'electronically
generated trade documentation' including Bill of Lading (document of title)
across stakeholders and across nations," the shipping secretary said.
Such a measure shall help ease the economic and humanitarian
challenges and also encourage continuity of trade
measure shall help ease the economic and humanitarian challenges and also
encourage continuity of trade and also enable trade revival in future. This
will also support the Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Commerce in their
efforts to ensure smooth flow of Export Import trade and release of import
containers/cargo at various ports in India. Should the stakeholder or financial
institutions or Departments require any support or assistance, they can reach
out to Ministry of Shipping or the IPA," he added.
The ministry also
requested considering CargoX, a public block chain platform that provides the
eBL solution and added that other solution providers of eBL like Tradelens,
Wave, Bolero etc are explored for maritime EXIM cargo.
The number of
vessels handled by ports during 2019-20 was around 20,837, whereas during
2018-19, number of vessels handled was 20,853. The vessel traffic declined
slightly by 0.08 per cent in comparison to last year.
The major ports handle about 60 per cent of
the country's total cargo traffic.