India progresses on port portal after rocky rollout

India progresses on port portal after rocky rollout

India’s redesigned port community system, PCS1x, is designed to improve fluidity in the supply chain by connecting marine terminals, transportation providers, and related intermediaries via a single window. Photo credit: APM Terminals Mumbai.

Stakeholders leading the development of India’s advanced electronic platform for port users have corrected many of the initial software glitches that industry leaders blamed on a lack of preparedness and planning ahead of the nationwide rollout in December.

The redesigned port community system, dubbed PCS1x, is designed to improve fluidity in the supply chain by connecting marine terminals, transportation providers (shipping lines, forwarders, truckers, and railroads), and related intermediaries (customs brokers, storage yards, and longshore workers, among others) via a single window. The platform enables users to process delivery orders, transport orders, gate open cut-off times, delivery gate schedules, gate-in bookings, and pre-gate schedules electronically, rather than manually on paper.

According to a status report from Portall Infosystems, the project’s technical consultant, 6,105 users had signed on to the PCS1x program as of May 4, with another 8,584 registrations awaiting approval from the Indian Ports Association (IPA).

JNPT pilot a potential PCS template

Portall and other stakeholders have thus far concentrated most of their digitization efforts at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), which handles the majority of containerized freight shipped in and out of the country. One of the goals of the port community system is to increase “request-response” efficiency by reducing the time taken for allotment of a vessel call number (VCN), which currently averages 30.5 hours at JNPT.

Establishing the effectiveness of PCS functions in India’s busiest port complex could serve as a template for other ports seeking to join the program at a later stage. “JNPT is a pilot site for this initiative. We will assist all other ports in a like manner to drive the value proposition,” Portall said.

Under the first phase of deployment, the PCS network encompasses all of India’s 13 major public ports and five key privately operated minor ports throughout the country. A second phase will seek to maximize the system’s functional reach across the maritime industry, while a third phase will leverage the experience gained in the JNPT pilot to enhance the value proposition for users.

At a recent joint review session, stakeholders recommended that a collaborative work team from other ports visit JNPT in coming weeks to gain greater insight into the data integration and process improvements, which will enable them to replicate the tested model in their operations.

Data security concerns persist

Although system fluidity problems have significantly tapered off since the launch of PCS1x five months ago, users remain concerned about the security of the system, particularly when it comes to payment information.

The Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA), representing domestic ship operators, said in a letter to stakeholders, “The PCS system will now be manned and handled through a private agency appointed by the government for this specific purpose. Our members (like others in the trade) will be using this system and entering and providing data in respect of their vessels, cargo, and other relevant information, as may be prescribed. With all this data being stored in a single location, there is concern about the handling, storage, management, and oversight of such data.” INSA suggested that the Indian Ministry of Commerce’s logistics arm serve as the central “repository” for all such data.

The Container Shipping Lines Association of India (CSLA) previously urged authorities to redefine the PCS functional framework by restricting it to operational processes and doing away with financial transactions until stakeholders are confident in the security of the environment.

As trade groups push back on changes, stakeholders have scheduled a user interactive session on PCS issues Friday in Mumbai.

With the growth in containerized trade expected to accelerate after an 8 percent year-over-year increase at major ports in fiscal 2018-2019, leading terminals in the emerging market economy are increasingly embracing technology to keep pace with evolving supply chain demands, a challenge also magnified by larger call sizes.