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Taking cargo out of airport faster than from port: Study

Congestion and delay in evacuation of cargo from the Chennai port is far from over even after the commissioning of Rs 600 crore Ennore Manali road improvement program EMRIP,  providing two dedicated lanes for cargo moving out of the port according to a study made by the Chennai Customs. 

Withdrawing cargo out of the city’s seaport took on an average six days after the ship berthed at the port while the time taken to move cargo out of Chennai Airport is hardly two and a half days after the aircraft had landed. It is therefore time that the National highway authority resume work on the much delayed Chennai port Maduravoyal elevated corridor though the Tamil Nadu government had given clearance for resumption of the project over a year ago. 

The naval and coastguard officials residing near the Chennai port have now put obstacles for the resumption the project saying the project would cause noise pollution in their residential area. Since the future of Chennai port is at  stake, the naval officials should withdraw their objections to the project which could make or mar the one hundred year old Chennai port. 

Gone are the days when the industry and trade used to blame the red tape of customs and other enforcement agencies for the delay in the delivery of cargo; both at Chennai port and the airport.  With the ushering in of the ease of doing business the customs have taken up the role of the facilitator to the trade discarding their earlier avatar of a rigorous regulator. 

The Time Release Study for import cargo was released by the customs in Chennai on May 31.T The data shows that the majority of time taken for release of cargo is due to other ‘stakeholders’ (including recipients of the cargo) and not customs.

For instance, while seaport customs takes 31.5 hours on an average to get the job done, the stakeholders account for 109 hours. For airport customs, the respective time taken is 12.71 hours and 54.44 hours.

The data shows that for operators whose bills and processes are in order, it can take as little as 12.31 hours (half a day) to release the cargo at the seaport. Similarly, at the airport, it can be released in as little as six hours.


Sources in the industry say that when imported cargo arrives at the port, it has to go through a number of formalities like getting a bill of entry, assessment of the cargo, examination and appraisal and payment of duty. Cargo is also sent to Container Freight Stations (CFS) for unsealing.


At the airport, clearance of cargo is faster because the demurrage charges (payment for failure to take the cargo from the port) are much higher than at the seaport.

Customs officials said they have introduced the Direct Port Delivery mechanism where importers can take direct delivery of containers without taking them to a CFS. The government thus assures release of cargo within 48 hours. 

Releasing the report chief commissioner of customs Ajit Kumar said the Chennai customs have received over one thousand applications for authorized economic operators status to enable them to receive direct port delivery of imports and direct port entry for exports. Over three hundred applications have already been processed .The rest will be done during the course of the year. 

From a mere eighteen per cent Chennai port has handled nearly 46 per cent of the imports under direct port delivery. The target is to achieve eighty per cent shortly, which he said was a huge challenge for the Chennai customs. 

The customs is chasing the trade to deliver refunds even on holidays. When a trader received a call on a holiday to come and collect the refunds, he thought it was a hoax call for he could not believe his eyes that the customs staff was working on a holiday to deliver the refunds. 

The customs department is evolving on a daily basis and the goal is to become friendly to the trade and become their facilitator. The release time can be further improved by filing documents online and shifting to a systems driven environment like the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) application,. 

Leading leather exporter Dr Rafiq Ahmed who received the copy of the study conducted by the customs said other agencies connected with exports and imports should follow the example of Customs. The agencies like drug controllers, quarantine department and FISSI should also help quick release of cargo.

 

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