India Customs prepares expanded direct delivery scheme for import cargo

Customs authorities at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in India have set up a separate wing to handle processes related to “direct port delivery” for the clearance of import freight from India’s biggest public container gateway as part of larger program to facilitate trade and ease congestion in the harbor.

A notice to shippers and the trade from JNPT Customs spells out various functions that the dedicated division will provide to shippers, which include processing of applications for client pre-approval and handling of advance cargo manifest data as well as customs duty payment.

“As a measure of trade facilitation and ‘ease of doing business,’ a dedicated single window ‘Direct Port Delivery Cell’ has been created,” JNPT Customs said.

The process revamp follows on the heels of JNPT relaxing its direct delivery policy to allow more shippers to use the green-channel scheme, which was previously restricted to clients guaranteeing a minimum volume of 300 twenty-foot-equivalent units per month.

As a result of the change, nearly 150 importers are now expected to utilize direct delivery, as against a previous figure of only 10 to 15 approved clients, according to a recent port update.

The direct port delivery system is one of several “ease of doing business” initiatives that the port administration has rolled out during the past year to improve productivity and service levels. To that effect, private terminals in JNPT have already set up automated gate systems a for drayage. That has had a significant impact on the speed at which trucks are able to turn around at terminals, and it is hoped that these steps will go a long way to decongesting the landside operation at the largest port.

JNPT, also known as NhavaSheva, loads roughly 60 percent of the containers passing through India’s 12 major state-owned major ports and about 40 percent of the nation’s overall containerized ocean freight.

DP World NhavaSheva, which has two terminals in JNPT said that the company currently has 12 customers using the DPD scheme. “We have been closely working with the port trust to promote more DPD customers and to facilitate trade services,” the private operator said.

The Dubai-based company has processed 3,594 TEUs of direct delivery cargo during January and February, while its average monthly figure last year amounted to 1,830 TEUs, according to the company.

APM Terminals Mumbai, which accounts for about 40 percent of JNPT’s total throughput, has taken a lead role in implementing trade improvement measures. “We deliver import cargo within six hours of vessel arrival,” the company said.

The private terminal, which has three on-dock intermodal rail-sidings, is also looking at the possibility of running dedicated trains for some of its big clients.

In another trade facilitation move, government authorities have accepted the recommendation made by a port-industry expert committee to streamline current procedures involved in granting “port clearance” for cargo ships calling at various Indian ports, a long-standing demand of ship agents.

“It has been observed that there is no uniformity regarding customs procedures adopted at some ports/customs stations, which increases transaction cost and time of clearance. This also results in major constraints in making Indian ports international transshipment hubs,” an official update said.

Going forward, ship operators and agents will have the option to secure advance port permits for one year, according to the statement. “This would reduce the number of documents submitted each time a vessel enters.”

Extensive documentation requirements and procedural delays had been major impediments to India’s trade growth, and the new NarendraModi-led reformist government, in office since May 2014, has been pouring large amounts of effort and investment into the country’s supply chain infrastructure to rev up the economy.

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