India testing paperless documentation at port

A pilot program to test paperless customs documentation will be implemented at the Nhava Sheva Container Terminal for the next two months in an attempt to ease the India’s congestion problem.

The Economic Times reported that all government-owned ports in India will eventually move to paperless customs documentation if the experiment at Nhava Sheva proves successful. The initiative is aimed at making it easier to do business with government-owned ports and could potentially cut dwell times for truckers.

The move to paperless is just the latest in a series of moves by the government to make the country’s 12 major ports more alluring to carriers and shippers alike. Inefficient cargo handling, along with major delays, pushed business to some of the country’s privately owned ports. As a result, the major ports have gone from handling 91 percent of all Indian cargo in 1995 to 57 percent of cargo this year.

The Nhava Sheva Container Terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust according to Economic Times will be the first to experiment with paperless customs documentation. The move should cut evacuation times per container from five minutes to less than one minute, the shipping ministry said. Paperless customs documentation could also cut logistics costs and potentially eliminate delays for exporters and importers.

Going to an electronic system will also do away with the time-consuming process of hand stamping paperwork, which has added to port congestion.

A major committee overseeing changes to Indian ports has also recommended a single agency to stevedore and handle all vessels in major ports to better focus the marketing of major ports, the Economic Times also reported. Multiple agencies currently handle several parts of cargo flow.

“The non-major ports have by and large a system of having one agency looking after all the work of landing/loading of ships and shore handling of cargo in their port; this gives a more focused approach to marketing of the port,” the committee said.

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