Singapore and some of the Gulf countries are keen to integrate into India’s port community system or PCS as the government moves swiftly ahead with digitisation to promote transparency and facilitate ease of doing business for the country’s export-import trade, a top government official has said.
“Countries like Singapore and several of the Gulf countries are in discussions with the government to allow them to integrate into the PCS because it’s possible to have a one-shot approach to India business, India regulation, India trade or India options through such integration,” N Sivasailam, Special Secretary (Logistics) in the Department of Commerce, said.
Portall, a logistics management application, developed by Mumbai-based logistics conglomerate JM Baxi Group, was awarded a contract by the Indian Ports Association, an autonomous body under the shipping ministry, to roll out a pan-India Port Community System (PCS 1x).
The cloud-based technology was launched in December last year, seeking to integrate multiple stakeholders from the maritime trade onto a single platform.
The adoption of PCS would result in improvement in ease of doing business. It will help in improved visibility, reduction in time and cost for the trade.
“Digitisation is the key,” Sivasailam said while exhorting trade associations to plug on to the PCS platform for providing services.
“Customs is ready and raring to go. ICE GATE is going to be integrated into the PCS. Once it is done, a whole lot of opportunities lie ahead,” he said.
But, it will not be sufficient to just integrate ICE GATE if certain aspects like the unloading program of a ship docking at a port is not made available publicly or is not leveraged in order to make available a transportation system within the port.
For instance, in Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), a lorry or a trailer which wants to take out a direct port delivery (DPD) container, waits for four days.
DPD is designed to clear a cargo container arriving at a port within 48 hours but a trailer which has to take the DPD box has to wait four days, he said.
“That’s not the level of efficiency which we need to build into the system because that is not counted in the port’s dwell time, but it does count in the turn-around time of the truck with the attendant costs,” he stated.
With a national platform like PCS, India is in a position to go for blockchain, making document exchange instantaneous.
“In fact, your documents will come before the ship arrives and with ICE GATE integrated into PCS — an international system and a governance system of India — it’s possible to have blockchain and if you have blockchain, a lot of you can leverage it. Your documents can be put into it and anybody can see the same document without the need to have multiple copies,” he opined.
Businesses, howsoever big they are, can never develop a platform; they can only develop a website for their services.
“But, people are not interested in your services alone; people are interested in comparative services with regard to others. Being together is what others are looking for and also to have a comparative view. There is no other method to have a competitive way of projecting your offerings before the public than to have a common business platform,” he said.
“I don’t see India moving ahead unless and until institutions which have commonality of interests are on a platform. It’s time we addressed that issue through industry-wide or association-wide platforms,” Sivasailam said.
Nobody, he said, can imagine the kind of money spent by the state-owned ports to build the PCS. “They (the ports) are the big guys, you can never match that investment. Indeed, several countries cannot match this investment,” he stated.
The PCS has become a national asset and it’s time to recognise that in the context of digitisation.
Pursuing digitisation for oneself or for a closed group while keeping it non-transparent for others was an “extremely dangerous thing to do”.
“No information in a port is free; so, there are tremendous rent-seeking behaviours that are created by such lack of transparency,” he added.