PSA International’s Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals (BMCT) is moving hand-in-hand with customs authorities at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to increase import freight clearance under the direct port delivery (DPD) method, an Indian government initiative meant to speed supply chains and lower costs for beneficial cargo owners (BCOs).
BMCT, touted as the single-largest foreign direct investment in India's port sector, opened in February 2018 with a capacity of 2.4 million TEU in its first phase.
PSA (India), in a statement to JOC.com, said BMCT has opened a dedicated on-site customs examination center for DPD cargo, reportedly a first at JNPT, by which importers can avoid the burden of having to wheel out containers randomly selected for customs inspections to off-site storage yards.
“This initiative, supported by the authorities, will further facilitate the ease-of-doing-business,” the company said. “We encourage the DPD trade community to avail this service.”
DPD enables accredited importers to clear their cargo directly from the wharf within 48 hours of landing at the port, instead of via an off-dock container freight station (CFS) — a traditional practice fraught with long delays and considerable costs due to the involvement of intermediaries. This reform also stems from India’s obligations under the World Trade Organization's trade facilitation agreement, which was enacted in early 2017 with a goal of standardizing transport procedures worldwide.
Moving to ease long-standing concerns
Customs’ inspection process at Indian ports is often a source of concern for shippers. This problem becomes even more frustrating when Customs chooses to perform an inspection on one container out of a large lot, holding up the entire consignment for which the BCO may have already made a truck or rail transport arrangement. An on-site inspection facility is expected to mitigate these issues.
“JNCH [Jawaharlal Nehru Customs House] is of the view that [the] provision of [a] ‘proper examination facility inside terminal’ will significantly reduce import dwell time and cost of DPD importers, and will also expedite and facilitate import clearances significantly,” a Customs’ public notice said.
The DPD program has grabbed much of the stakeholder attention at JNPT in recent years for two reasons — the government’s intense pressure on larger shipper participation and Customs’ repeated interventions to fix trade concerns about extra terminal charges. Notwithstanding such nagging issues, which are currently under scrutiny, the accelerated effort has seen JNPT’s average DPD handling steadily climb to 50 percent of laden imports in the past three months, but challenges remain as Customs is pitching for 80 percent in the months ahead.
In fiscal 2018 to 2019, which ended March 31, BMCT processed 59,034 TEU via DPD, out of a total of 222,421 TEU laden imports during the year — representing 26.5 percent, according to data compiled by JOC.com. That’s a respectable gain for a new comer in its first year of operations.
BMCT currently features a berth line of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), a 90-hectare (222 acres) storage yard with 9,336 ground slots, four rail-mounted gantry cranes, and 36 rubber-tire gantry cranes. A second phase of the same scale is targeted for completion at the end of 2022, doubling JNPT’s total capacity to nearly 10 million TEU annually.
The new concessionaire holds other competitive edges, too. It is the only terminal fully integrated with Indian Railways’ flagship dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project under construction, and one of two terminals able to provide container-on-barge service at the port.
BMCT hosts four weekly mainline calls: The EPIC2 (India-Europe) under a vessel-sharing agreement between CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, and Cosco; the Swahili Express (SWAX) operated jointly by CMA CGM and Emirates Shipping Line in the India-Africa trade; the IMED (India-Middle East-East Mediterranean) loop between CMA CGM and Cosco; and the intra-Asia CI-1 between Cosco Shiping Lines, APL, and OOCL. In addition, domestic shortsea carrier Shreyas Shipping and Logistics offers a fortnightly coastal loop, rotating BMCT, Cochin, Tuticorin, Mangalore, Mundra, Hazira, and back to BMCT.
BMCT handled 143,783 TEU during April to May, the first two months of fiscal 2019 to 2020, a threefold increase from 48,487 TEU a year earlier, according to JOC data.
As DPD remains a key element in India’s freight transportation policy, authorities are expected to explore with various stakeholders further proactive measures to make the program even more BCO-oriented.