India continues to invest in digitization of port services for greater supply chain efficiency and transparency following the significant progress cited by the World Bank and other global financial institutions in their recent doing-business evaluations for the emerging market economy.
Authorities have rolled out a vastly improved, more comprehensive port community system (PCS) — an integrated, central portal designed to connect all players in the supply chain ecosystem (such as terminals, transport service providers, and related intermediaries) — under a single window module.
The revamped system — dubbed the PCS 1X — is a progression of various changes implemented in response to feedback received during public consultations, after the government earlier this year told all stakeholders to join the platform to create a more-harmonized business environment. The digital program has been in place at major/key port locations for the past few years.
“The ultimate aim is to seamlessly integrate all members of the port community and also to provide an electronic platform to act as a single window to exchange messages, which is a positive step towards improving communication and productivity, and reduction in transaction costs at Indian major ports,” the Indian Ports Association (IPA) stated in a trade announcement. The IPA is the nodal agency for this nationwide automation project.
Electronic processing to speed cargo
Essentially, under PCS, stakeholders can handle functions related to issuing of delivery orders, transport orders, gate open-cut off times, delivery gate schedules, gate-in bookings, and pre-gate schedules, electronically, instead of in hard-copy form — a process that typically involves long delays and lacks cargo visibility.
“PCS 1X is a cloud-based, new-generation technology, with a user-friendly interface. This system seamlessly integrates eight new stakeholders, besides the 19 existing stakeholders from the maritime trade on a single platform,” a Ministry of Shipping statement said.
With PCS 1X being more amenable than the previous module, authorities believe data-sharing processes will become more efficient and faster as customs authorities have embarked on an application programming interface (API)-based connectivity to facilitate real-time interaction.
“The system enables single [the] sign-on facility to provide [a] one-stop interface to all the functionalities across all stakeholders. Another major feature is the deployment of a world-class, state-of-the-art payment aggregator solution, which removes dependency on a bank-specific payment ecosystem,” the statement added.
Further, the new application features a track and trace, end-to-end solution — a key innovation that can go a long way to keeping pace with rapidly evolving trade dynamics.
Highlighting additional functionalities, the IPA stated that the advanced/broader PCS rollout will transform India’s ports into world-class, technology-driven maritime centers — a development that is critical to maximizing the gains from ongoing government reforms intended to increase economic growth.
The IPA also said the digital exchange currently generates about 1.5 million transactions per month, with average revenue pegged at Rs. 400 crore (about $56 million).
That electronic port procedure complements other technological advancements under way at major/minor ports across the country — notably gate automation and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology-enabled container tracking services — as part of a larger program to decrease cargo dwell times. Shippers using Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) — India’s busiest container harbor — have particularly benefited from these initiatives.
Finally, those reform and digitization efforts have had a significant impact on India’s ease-of-doing-business competitiveness: India has risen 53 positions in just two years to 77th out of 190 nations listed in the World Bank’s latest report.