Glitches mar India's digital container portal

Glitches mar India's digital container portal

Containers stacked at a port.

India’s upgraded digital portal, PCS 1x, was launched Tuesday. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Shippers and other supply chain stakeholders in India are grappling with online filing/processing glitches, following the Tuesday nationwide rollout of an upgraded “port community system — PCS 1x,” — which authorities tout as a technological revolution in freight transport to/from the emerging market economy.

The Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA) and the Maritime Association of Nationwide Shipping Agencies (MANSA) — the two prominent shipping-trade groups — have called on the Indian Ports Association (IPA), a government  body tasked with the PCS implementation, to swiftly address cargo interests’ concerns, as any operational delays can affect supply chains and cause costly consequences for transport providers and others.

Sources at IPA stated that officials are feverishly working to fix the issues and cited data transfer from the previous PCS service provider as the crux of the problem that caused online filing complications.

The CSLA, representing foreign carriers in trade to/from India, questioned the wisdom of authorities going live with the revamped single-window system without an adequate trial-run process and stated that user representatives, during stakeholder consultations, had sought a “soft launch” of the PCS 1x at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), in the first phase, prior to a nationwide rollout.

“The 'hard launch' was supposed to happen only after the testing of the complete functioning of the system during the 'soft launch' and after the receipt of confirmation from the stakeholders on the satisfactory functioning of the system,” the carrier group stated in its communique to the IPA. “On Dec. 11th though, this system went live at all the major ports, without the testing of the ... 'soft launch.'"

Manual filing option

Furthermore, the CSLA has requested that, because fixing various system issues will likely take time, users have an interim option of manual filings until the electronic platform is restored to a seamless, fully functional mode.

“This is to avoid any operational or service delays, for which the [shipping] lines will not be in a position to accept any liabilities, [through no fault of their own],” the association said.    

Meanwhile MANSA — the umbrella body of local ship/steamer agents — said stakeholders, during a public workshop on Dec. 4, broadly agreed that the new PCS 1x would run in parallel with the current module to ward off potential hiccups. “It is now reported that the old PCS site is not working and not accessible.”

The agents’ group also highlighted that members are experiencing difficulties performing critical vessel services, including port payments, and urged the IPA to coordinate with all technical agencies regarding corrective measures.

Moreover, flooded with user complaints, JNPT is said to have approached the IPA on Friday and expressed concern at the lackadaisical manner in which the new system had been launched considering several key features/functionalities had not been properly integrated. This lack of planning/readiness during "go-live" preparations is hampering port operations, officials reportedly stated. At the same time, industry bodies have generally lauded the government's digitization efforts.