Thirteen major ports have embarked on a massive information technology (IT) upgradation drive to bring them on a par with global ports.
The ministry of shipping is funding the development of a centralized port community system (PCS) at government-owned ports. It has awarded a contract to Singapore-based software firm Crimson Logic to develop and implement a PCS at all major ports to reap the benefits of electronic commerce and move towards a paperless office, said a ministry official who did not wish to be named. Crimson Logic had earlier developed a PCS for Singapore port, considered to be Asia’s hub port.
The PCS, supported by Portnet at Singapore port, allows ordering of berths and pilot services, documentation, enquiry, tracking and billing.
PCS helps integrate the electronic flow of information across the trading partners involved in maritime transport chain through a common interface. It will function as a centralized hub for all major ports and other stakeholders such as shipping lines, agents, surveyors, stevedores, banks, container freight stations, government regulatory agencies, customs house agents, importers, exporters and transporters for exchanging messages electronically in a secure manner using the latest technologies.
V.B.S.V. Rao, deputy manager, systems, Mumbai port, says that PCS will be implemented on a pilot basis at Mumbai and Jawaharlal Nehru ports by June end. “It will be implemented in all the Central government run ports by December this year,” he adds.
Despite being regarded as a software powerhouse globally, India has lagged behind in the application of IT at its ports.
PCS is characterized by a central platform that enables seamless data integration between all port players throughout the port logistics chain.
With the rise in cargo volume, the availability of a PCS is a prerequisite for the successful development of a port. Implementation of PCS will enhance the competitive position of major ports by cutting down staff and administration costs, speeding up processes and raising the efficiency level.
Though major Indian ports introduced computers for their operations and management several years ago, they have not been able to establish a fully-integrated electronic data interchange (EDI) with their trading partners. As a result, Indian ports continue to depend on manual documents of customs for completing the port documentation.
Internationally, IT has facilitated instant access and transfer of information through EDI. But in India, implementation of EDI is minimal and consists of the proprietary message exchange format formulated by customs. This is not compatible with any of the international standards. “EDI was implemented at Indian ports only in bits and pieces and hence the real benefits have not been realized so far,” says Rao.
The port community information exchange in India is a combination of paper and electronic components with a mismatch in speed causing huge communication gaps. Before a cargo can leave a port premises, it needs to complete the processes of 12 pre-arrival documents, 16 documents related to imports and 13 documents related to exports.
Though many Indian ports have introduced a single-window clearing system, users still need to interact with different departments. Moreover, the processes of documentation and payments are to be completed during the working hours of administrative sections (between 10am and 5pm). This stymies the process of cargo delivery.
“We plan to make use of IT as a strategic weapon in the ports sector,” says A.K. Bal, deputy chairman, Mumbai port. According to him, IT can eliminate 23 person-to-person interfaces, 50 minutes in pre-arrival documentations and 23 hours in import and 15 hours in export documentations.