Indian government authorities on Wednesday announced plans to provide round-the-clock customs clearance services at the country’s major seaports and airports.
The move follows intense pressure from the trade and maritime community, which has been calling for trade service improvements to speed cargo flow.
“One of the major constraints for international trade has been the non-availability of customs clearance and other facilities at airports and seaports round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week,” an official statement said. “Currently, import and export shipments, delivered at a time when clearance facilities are unavailable, have to wait until clearance facilities are open to move onto their destinations. As a result, at airports and ports, which in any case normally operate round-the-clock, cargo piles up awaiting clearances.”
Officials said the pilot program would initially cover four seaports such as Jawaharlal Nehru (Nhava Sheva), Chennai, Kolkata and Kandla. The four airports identified for the trial project are New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.
The proposed seamless clearance services, covering certain categories of imports and exports, are expected to start Aug. 25. The scheme will cover import cargo falling under the “non-assessment-no-examination” category, which accounts for about 70 percent of inbound volume, while for exports, it could be extended to shipments not taking advantage of tax incentives.
“Depending on the outcome of the trial over a four-month period, efforts would be made to expand similar operations at other locations,” officials said.
Extensive documentation requirements and procedural delays have been described as major impediments to India’s trade development. The Commerce Ministry in 2007 set up an expert committee, comprising senior Customs executives, port and private terminal officials and trade representatives, to review existing requirements and suggest ways to improve procedures that take much longer than at other leading ports in the world.