S Nataraja, Proprietor of leading Chennai based Logistics firm Paramount Forwarders has been on cargo handling
business for over forty years. He had held several positions in the Chennai
Custom Brokers Association in the last two decades. In the keenly contested elections
held last year, Mr Nataraja and his panel were elected Office bearers of the
prestigious Association by a large margin. A soft spoken person he answers wide
ranging questions on the Shipping and Logistics Industry in a wide ranging
interview to Sagar Sandesh.
SS: Customs houses in the country, far from being an enforcement agency
have become facilitators to trade in the last few years thanks to the
implementation of Ease of doing Business. Are the trade friendly measures of
the Customs adequate? What needs to be done to take the facilitation measures
SN: Customs have shifted their role from being regulator to become a
facilitator to the trade in the last few years following the implementation of
ease of doing business by both central and state governments. Perfect
understanding has been reached between the trade and the higher echleons of the
Customs including commissioners and chief commissioners in the implementation
of the governmentís policies in a manner friendly to the trade.
however is not forthcoming from the field level Customs Executives like
Appraising officers, Preventive Officers and Examining officers. They are yet
to get absorbed to the governmentís thinking in the matter and are not up to
the requirement of the trade. Therefore we face lot of issues at the ground
level in dealing with them.
trade expects the same level of cooperation that they receive from high
officials of customs to be extended by lower level officers. But this is not
Q) Have the trade and the customs house agents
got over the technological glitches they faced during the initial phase of the
implementation of the Goods and Services Tax? What are the problems they
continue to face and how they could be overcome?
The trade welcomes the governmentís decision to implement GST that is one
nation one tax. It was implemented from July last year. The moment the new tax
regime came into force the trade faced technological glitches. But they were
slowly overcome through periodic meeting with the Customs Officials. Most of
the issues have been sorted out through dialogue,
problems however continue to persist like Export General Manifest not filed and
errors in export general manifest. The issues were discussed among the
stakeholders in the trade and the customs officials to identify the problem. We
have (the trade) have submitted its findings to the Customs which could help
redress the issues. All the issues they face on technological front will be
resolved in a week or two.
With the digitization of cargo handling operations, technology will play a
major role in future. Are the customs house brokers adequately trained to
handle the transformation in the Operations?
The frank answer to this question is that the brokers are not fully equipped
for the change. The government is implementing new schemes every day every week
and every month in its pursuance of ease of doing business.
take the help of our Apex body Federation of Freight Forwarders Association of
India to organize regular training programs for the customs house brokers and
the staff of customs broking houses. The idea is to make them understand the
requirements of digitization so that they can perform their work without
training programs are being organized to help them acquire expertise so that
they could assist in speedy clearance of cargo.
Technological advisories on dos and dontís are sent to the members
through whatís up and mails so that they have better understanding of the
Q) Industries have invested considerable funds
to create Container Freight Stations around the Ports to minimize congestion.
They have achieved the purpose for which they were set up. They are likely to
go out of business with the introduction of Direct Port Delivery System. Can
you suggest alternate model of business for them so that the infrastructure
they had created over the years is fully put to use?
We are part and parcel of the Container
Freight Station business. Ten years ago, the number of container freight
stations around the major ports can be counted. We suggested to both the
Customs department and the stakeholders to create more container freight
stations based on the revenue generated from the EXIM Trade.
are at present 31 container freight stations operating in and around Chennai
port. This is the case in all major ports of the country. Ten years ago their
number around Chennai Port was hardly five. That they will go out of business
with the introduction of direct port delivery is not correct.
container throughput at Chennai portís two terminals touched an all time high
of one lakh seventy seven thousand TEU during the last month of the last
financial year (March 2018)
of the 41 per cent DPD generated from Chennai port during March this year,
nearly nine per cent is directly routed through Container freight stations.
Thus the effective DPD turn over goes down to 32 per cent and the rest of the
containers are handled at container freight stations. Hence the belief that
container freight stations would go out of business with the introduction of
direct port delivery system is not correct.
trade needs CFSs to store their cargo on a temporary basis. They also need the
storage at CFS so that cargo from containers is unloaded fast and the boxes
sent back to the steamer agents to avoid demurrage. Hence DPD will have only
marginal impact on the turn-over of CFSs.
suggestion to the Container Freight stations is increase the covered storage
capacity so that they could serve as Ware Houses as well. This would help them
to balance their turn over.
Out of fifteen million TEUs handled at major ports of the country, hardly two
million TEUS seem to be the contribution of Ports in the East Coast. The rest
are handled at JNPT and Mundra Ports in the West Coast. Do you think the
railway infrastructure from Central India to East Coast ports needs to be
strengthened in an effort to correct the imbalance? Is there a strong case for
railway tariff to be made competitive to attract cargo from northern India to
east coast ports?
We feel that CONCOR India and the Railways need to be pro active and strengthen
their services to the East Coast Ports. CONCOR
should also rework its freight rates in order to compete with road
transport. If the tariff and services
are attractive, the trade would increasingly use the services of the
Railways.The cargo handled at these ports would then go up. Trade prefers to
use railways to handle more cargo since it involves saving in time and cost.
Container rail connectivity from Chennai Port is very poor. There are no
scheduled services from Chennai to Hyderabad or North Indian cities Private Operators who came forward to operate
freight services from Chennai port to Bengaluru last year gave up within a few
months. What are the reasons that forced them to pull out in such a short time?
is absolutely correct that Container connectivity to ports in the East Coast
including Chennai and Tuticorin is very poor. Neither CONCOR nor the Railways
improve their freight services to the east coast nor would they allow the
private parties to perform. They practice the dog in the manger policy.
freight operators though they own the flats to carry containers depend on
CONCOR for engines and the railways for the tracks to cover the distance. Both
the railways and the CONCOR proved to be an irritant for the Private
Operators and hence they had to pull out
of Chennai Port Bengaluru service last year.
of waiting for return cargo CONCOR should start promotion services from Chennai
to Guntur, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Hosur and Coimbatore. Both railways and CONCOR
should start end to end services rather providing services between railway
Ninety per cent of CONCOR officers are salary
earners and have no incentive to be trade friendly.