How to stream­line it

Cargo Han­dling Pro­ce­dures

Cargo Talk - - Editorial - RAtAn KR PAuL

The cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures in In­dia, is an area of se­ri­ous con­cern in the con­text of the end-to-end lo­gis­tics man­age­ment. Dur­ing the last cou­ple of years, apart from the ini­tia­tives taken by the govern­ment at the pol­icy level, ground han­dling and ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tor com­pa­nies, have taken some re­mark­able ini­tia­tives to stream­line the sys­tem. How­ever, there is still a long way to go for im­prov­ing them in In­dia. In this is­sue Car­gotalk high­lights some key de­vel­op­ments, chal­lenges and rec­om­men­da­tions for air cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures.

The cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures in In­dia, is an area of se­ri­ous con­cern in the con­text of the end-to-end lo­gis­tics man­age­ment. Dur­ing the last cou­ple of years, apart from the ini­tia­tives taken by the govern­ment at the pol­icy level, new pri­vate com­pa­nies, viz, ground han­dling and ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tor com­pa­nies, have taken some re­mark­able ini­tia­tives to stream­line the sys­tem. How­ever, there is still a long way to go for im­prov­ing them in In­dia. In this is­sue, Car­gotalk high­lights some key de­vel­op­ments, chal­lenges and rec­om­men­da­tions for air cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures.

i t is of­ten said that the air cargo han­dling pro­ce­dure in In­dia is not up to world stan­dards. How­ever, there is a se­ri­ous de­bate on the def­i­ni­tion of ‘world stan­dard’. “How do you de­fine ‘world stan­dard’? Would a swanky build­ing with an au­to­mated sys­tem be called world stan­dard or a sys­tem which de­liv­ers to the cus­tomer’s ex­pec­ta­tion be called world stan­dard? Can get­ting an ISO cer­ti­fi­ca­tion be termed as world stan­dard? Or is it some­thing that meets or ex­ceeds some stan­dards es­tab­lished by global ex­pert groups? So there are dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions to the term world stan­dard?”, said Rad­hara­manan

Pan­icker, CEO, CSC In­dia. He firmly be­lieves that there is no de­fined stan­dard glob­ally against which the cargo han­dling meth­ods or a fa­cil­ity can be mea­sured yet. The IATA ground han­dling work­ing group is now work­ing on defin­ing global stan­dards for cargo han­dling.

Pan­icker points out that In­dia has its own set of prob­lems that play the crit­i­cal role against meet­ing global re­quire­ments. “We have dif­fi­cul­ties in some air­ports in terms of in­ad­e­quacy of in­fra­struc­ture, lack of process and lack of trained hu­man re­sources. When some of the el­e­ments are miss­ing, it leads to cus­tomer dis­sat­is­fac­tion. Ac­cord­ingly, even if ul­ti­mate ser­vice stan­dard is of the high­est or­der, the over­all im­pact is un­sat­is­fac­tory”, Pan­icker opined.

We have dif­fi­cul­ties in air­ports in terms of in­ad­e­quacy of in­fra­struc­ture,

lack of process and trained hu­man re­sources”

Rad­hara­manan Pan­icker

CEO, CSC In­dia

The 24x7 cus­toms clear­ance pol­icy, along with si­mul­ta­ne­ous work­ing by all the trade part­ners, has re­duced the dwell times” Ra­jesh Goel CEO, Celebi Delhi Cargo ter­mi­nal

Ac­cord­ing to Ra­jesh Goel, CEO, Celebi Delhi Cargo Ter­mi­nal, the cur­rent cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures in In­dia have been stream­lined a lot as com­pared to the older days. How­ever, the pro­cess­ing time for ma­jor ex­port han­dling ac­tiv­i­ties and im­port cargo clear­ance are far be­low the in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. Ear­lier, re­stricted work­ing hours for cargo clear­ance con­gested the cargo ter­mi­nals. This led to pil­ing up of cargo which put tremen­dous pres­sure on the ca­pac­ity and cargo op­er­a­tions. How­ever, the re­cently im­ple­mented 24x7 cus­toms clear­ance, along with si­mul­ta­ne­ous work­ing by all the trade part­ners has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the dwell times.

in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions

Pan­icker was of the view that ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion, ev­ery re­gion, ev­ery coun­try will have dif­fer­ent busi­ness mod­els depend­ing on their lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. But it is im­por­tant to know and un­der­stand whether the three el­e­ments –in­fra­struc­ture, process and people, are in­te­grated and aligned to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions and re­quire­ments of the cus­tomer. “We work to en­sure that there is a high de­gree of align­ment be­tween our in­fra­struc­ture, process and people. We work on the air­line SLA and aim to achieve all the goals de­spite dif­fi­cul­ties. These are mon­i­tored by our qual­ity teams. Fur­ther­more,

On paper, the cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures are up to global stan­dards. How­ever, in ground re­al­ity, we are not there yet” Vi­pan Jain Head Bar In­dia Cargo (nR) and Re­gional Man­ager, South Asia and Mid­dle East, Lufthansa Cargo

we try to keep things very sim­ple and not make it com­pli­cated. Aided by IT, we are slowly mov­ing to­wards pa­per­less freight in our ter­mi­nal,” said Pan­icker. CSC has started hand-held ter­mi­nals for data en­try and mes­sag­ing. Presently, the com­pany is work­ing on bar­cod­ing all the im­port cargo.

Over­lap­ping roles of in­ter­me­di­aries and ware­house oper­a­tors cre­ates se­ri­ous prob­lems for the in­dus­try” Shankar Iyer Di­rec­tor-Cargo, South East Asia & Mid­dle East, Swiss World Cargo

Goel in­formed that at the Celebi Ter­mi­nal at the Delhi In­ter­na­tional Air­port the dwell times have been vis­i­bly re­duced and this can be at­trib­uted to sim­pli­fi­ca­tion and stream­lin­ing of pro­ce­dures and co­op­er­a­tion by re­lated stake­hold­ers. “There has been more au­to­ma­tion in the ter­mi­nals and in­creased ad­her­ence to e-freight ini­tia­tives.

Re­cently, we have also been recog­nised by IATA as a 100 per cent e-freight ter­mi­nal. How­ever, there is still a lot to achieve to reach the lev­els of the in­ter­na­tional cargo hubs, where the dwell times are sig­nif­i­cantly lower,” he ad­mit­ted. Re­cently Celebi in­tro­duced many value-added ser­vices that in­clude Doc­u­ment & Su­per­vi­sion Ser­vices, Im­port Pri­or­ity, Ex­port Pri­or­ity, Pharma Lo­gis­tics, Tran­sit Mail Sort­ing, Di­rect Flight Seg­re­ga­tion/ De­liv­ery and many oth­ers.

user’s per­spec­tive

The in­no­va­tive ideas from ser­vice providers are com­mend­able. But the ques­tion re­mains— that can the de­liv­er­ables yield the de­sired re­sults. “On paper, the cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures are sim­i­lar to the global stan­dards. How­ever, when it comes to ground re­al­i­ties we are not there yet. We ( In­dia) have rat­i­fied MC99 and en­tered it into force in 2009 as MC99 al­lows the use of elec­tronic means in lieu of a paper air way­bill for pre­serv­ing the record of car­riage. We are still lack­ing in re­plac­ing the paper with elec­tronic means and EDI just works as back-up to paper,” said Vi­pan Jain, Head Bar In­dia Cargo ( NR) and Re­gional Man­ager, South Asia and Mid­dle East, Lufthansa Cargo.

Jain raised var­i­ous is­sues per­tain­ing to ex­port and im­port ship­ment clear­ance. He pointed out that the Govern­ment of In­dia took ma­jor trade ini­tia­tive and in­tro­duced 24x7 clear­ance at main air­ports from cus­toms side. How­ever, the air­lines still face a prob­lem of un­der­load of flights, when­ever there are two or more con­sec­u­tive hol­i­days, in­clud­ing sec­ond Satur­day. “I feel all the play­ers do not have suf­fi­cient re­sources and so they would like to pro­pose seven days work­ing dur­ing the day to be­gin with fol­lowed by 24x7 work­ing, once we are all pre­pared,” stated Jain.

On the im­port front, amend­ments in the man­i­fest or the ar­rival of ship­ments and part ship­ments due to last minute off-load­ing at the last point of en­try is still a ma­jor bot­tle­neck in the process, even though it is only two-three per cent. “A lot of time is spent by car­ri­ers and con­sol­ida­tors for amend­ments with cus­toms and han­dling agents. We are in EDI mode for more than 18 years now. How­ever, ev­ery­thing is still on paper, when it comes to per­mis­sion from au­thor­i­ties,” Jain un­der­lined.

Keep­ing EDI apart, the phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture is not con­ducive ei­ther. “Ma­jor chal­lenges in­clude un­re­al­is­tic in­fra­struc­ture and some­times even lack of vi­sion. Over­lap­ping roles of in­ter­me­di­aries and ware­house oper­a­tors cre­ates se­ri­ous prob­lems for the en­tire air cargo in­dus­try in the coun­try,” main­tained Shankar Iyer, Di­rec­tor-Cargo, South East Asia & Mid­dle East, Swiss World Cargo.

Bharat Thakkar, Im­me­di­ate Past Pre­sient, ACAAI, main­tained that the Pub­lic Pri­vate Part­ner­ship ( PPP) model was a turn­ing point in the In­dian his­tory of eco­nomic growth es­pe­cially to the ports and air­ports. As a re­sult, at Green Field such as Ben­galuru or Brown Field such as Delhi and Mum­bai, sig­nif­i­cant changes have been brought in by PPP mod­els. Un­for­tu­nately, there has been no re­mark­able progress in cargo han­dling meth­ods. “We do agree that pas­sen­gers should be given ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties and pri­or­i­ties at the air­ports. But it should not be done grossly at the cost of and at the ne­glect of the cargo fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

“The cargo han­dling pro­ce­dures in In­dia are far from world stan­dard. The ex­port dwell time at the metro ports is over 24 hours, whereas the world stan­dard is less than 12 hours. We still have long wait­ing hours for the trucks be­fore the cargo is off loaded. This is fol­lowed by a long process of cargo sit­ting in the ex­am­i­na­tion area be­fore it is moved to the bonded area even though only a small frac­tion of ship­ments are to be ex­am­ined ( Delhi be­ing an ex­cep­tion in this re­spect). We still have many paper documents re­quired to trans­act busi­ness be­tween the for­warder, the cus­to­dian and the air­line, which is in­creas­ing the trans­ac­tion cost,” pointed out Cyrus

Kat­gara, Part­ner, Jeena & Co.

How­ever, Umesh Tiwari, Chair­man, Per­fect Cargo Movers main­tains that there are a lot of de­vel­op­ments at the air­port level thanks to the en­try of pri­vate ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors. Though, there are some air­ports (e.g. Mum­bai) still fac­ing space con­straints. In his opin­ion, the 24x7 work­ing pol­icy of Cus­toms is also play­ing a very pos­i­tive role for smooth han­dling of cargo and cur­rently about 90 per cent ex­port ship­ments are go­ing on time.

In­ter­est­ingly, there are some sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments in do­mes­tic air cargo han­dling.

We agree that pas­sen­gers should be given pri­or­i­ties at the air­ports, but it should not be done at the cost of the cargo fa­cil­i­ties” Bharat Thakkar Im­me­di­ate Past Pre­sient, ACAAI

Paper documents are still re­quired to trans­act busi­ness be­tween the for­warder, cus­to­dian and air­line, which in­creases the trans­ac­tion cost” Cyrus Kat­gara Part­ner, Jeena & Co

There are a lot of de­vel­op­ments at the air­port level thanks to the en­try of pri­vate ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors” Umesh Tiwari Chair­man, Per­fect Cargo Movers The im­ple­men­ta­tion of e-AWB by the air­lines has eased the in­for­ma­tion and han­dling flows” Amit Ba­jaj Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, DACAAI and Di­rec­tor, Mi­tuj Mar­ket­ing

“There has been a dras­tic change in the han­dling of do­mes­tic air cargo. The han­dling has moved from small in­di­vid­ual air­lines ware­houses to Com­mon User Ter­mi­nals. The IT in­fra­struc­ture has im­proved im­mensely. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of e-AWB by the air­lines has eased the in­for­ma­tion and han­dling flows,” high­lighted Amit Ba­jaj, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, DACAAI and Di­rec­tor, Mi­tuj Mar­ket­ing.

“We are heav­ily de­pen­dent on man­power for han­dling of cargo. Sim­ple mech­a­ni­sa­tions like large base trol­leys, mov­able con­vey­ors, weigh bridges, large pal­lets X-ray ma­chines, etc. are miss­ing. CCTV mon­i­tor­ing is also lack­ing at most air­ports. The ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors and the air­lines need to in­vest in mech­a­ni­sa­tion to jus­tify the han­dling charges they are charg­ing,” he added.

rec­om­men­da­tions

Ac­cord­ing to Pan­icker, cargo has to be­come im­por­tant in the minds of pol­icy mak­ers, the govern­ment and air­port oper­a­tors. It plays a large role in the econ­omy of the re­gion and city in which the air­port is lo­cated. “If we have to move cargo to air mode of trans­port, we will have to make the en­tire air cargo sup­ply chain cost-com­pet­i­tive ver­sus sea mode of trans­port. It is a col­lab­o­ra­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one in the sup­ply chain,” he ob­served. Pan­icker main­tained that reg­u­la­tions have to be sim­pli­fied and in­ter­preted cor­rectly and should be fol­lowed in same man­ner ev­ery where in the coun­try.

“There should be a clear-cut pol­icy to en­hance the ef­fi­ciency of all the agencies work­ing at the air­ports. Apart from Cus­toms, sev­eral other agencies are also re­spon­si­ble for clear­ance of goods at air­ports and ev­ery­body should im­prove their pro­cesses for easy and fast clear­ance,” Goel added. He feels that the poli­cies should be to im­prove ef­fi­ciency through au­to­mated ma­te­rial han­dling sys­tem and IT sys­tem, for mak­ing pa­per­less en­vi­ron­ment and e-freight with a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach.

“We clearly need guide­lines from the Min­istry that wher­ever we have elec­tronic trans­mis­sions, no phys­i­cal paper is re­quired. And, my first rec­om­men­da­tion is to adopt the best prac­tices of each air­port in In­dia and in­tro­duce them at other air­ports as well,” said Jain. He pointed out that the in­dus­try has seen num­ber of pro­ce­dures which are the best, and of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. How­ever, it is not easy to im­ple­ment them on an­other in­ter­na­tional air­port within In­dia. “We would re­quest the Min­istry / Cus­tom Board to have an open ses­sion with the trade mem­bers and im­ple­ment the same by way of no­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he ap­pealed.

Com­ment­ing on some rec­om­men­da­tions on reg­u­lar op­er­a­tional meth­ods, Jain said that the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the ex­port side count­ing of pack­ages should lie with the han­dling agent and not the car­rier or cus­toms. Sim­i­larly, af­ter cus­toms clear­ance LEO, it should be the han­dling agent’s re­spon­si­b­lity to re­lease goods to the car­ri­ers and not cus­toms or CISF. How­ever, ran­dom checks can al­ways be made by reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties, in­stead of rou­tine ones. He also ad­vo­cated for early adop­tion of e-freight.

“There should be a seam­less move­ment from truck dock ac­cep­tance to air­craft and vice-versa. It should be fa­cil­i­tated with rea­son­able time­lines, re­duced doc­u­men­ta­tion and pro­ce­dural rig­maroles. Ser­vic­ing should be by skilled, cus­tomer-ori­ented and eye to com­pli­ance per­son­nel,” em­pha­sised Iyer.

“Re­duce dwell time, im­prove ef­fi­ciency, en­hance fa­cil­i­ties, pro­vide bet­ter pro­ce­dures and move over to a sys­tem-driven process,” en­dorsed Thakkar. He pointed out that the dwell time is the cu­mu­la­tive re­sult of var­i­ous fac­tors, some are even be­fore ar­rival of the air­craft. Pri­mar­ily the trig­ger­ing point for the dwell time is the fil­ing of IGM or Im­port Gen­eral Man­i­fest with Cus­toms. ACAAI has been ad­vo­cat­ing that this can be from the point of wheel-up of the air­craft at the ori­gin air­port (like fol­lowed in US and most of the EU/Ja­pan/ Korea). Thakkar also pointed out that timely han­dling of cargo from touch­down of the air­craft by the cus­to­di­ans plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­duc­ing dwell time. Ac­cord­ing to Thakkar, pro­cess­ing time of documents by Cus­toms has come down in the past decade. But this is not suf­fi­cient to dras­ti­cally bring down dwell time. “We need a new look at the en­tire Cus­toms process which should be driven by sys­tems. Non­trace­abil­ity and dam­age to cargo in­creases dwell time and both are con­trol­lable, if proper sys­tem is in place and is mon­i­tored,” he said. He fur­ther pointed out one more chal­lenge, which is the re­stricted / con­gested ap­proach both in­side and out­side the air­port ter­mi­nals for ve­hic­u­lar move­ments. It slows

We should bring in mech­a­nisms for in­ter­ac­tions be­tween ship­pers and ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors for the greater in­ter­est of the in­dus­try” Su­man Dhaulta Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, KVM Air­cargo

down clear­ance process and in­creases dwell time. Kat­gara urged for stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of the process of seam­less, pa­per­less move­ment of cargo from for­warder to the bonded area at all air­ports. Only the ship­ments re­quired for ex­am­i­na­tions should be re­called from the bonded area sim­i­lar to what is be­ing done in Delhi. “The trans­ac­tions at the air­port should be pa­per­less and the dwell time at all air­ports should come down to 12 hours,” he said. Tiwari ap­pealed that ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors have to be more care­ful about mis­han­dling and miss­ing of cargo. Cargo should not be loaded or sent with­out a man­i­fest.

Ac­cord­ing to Ba­jaj, more com­mon user ter­mi­nals need to come up, for ease of han­dling of cargo. In­fra­struc­ture in B-class cities lacks this, even though the do­mes­tic cargo is grow­ing. “To sus­tain this growth, we need to look at the in­fra­struc­ture at the smaller cities ur­gently,” he rec­om­mended. In his opin­ion, to in­crease ef­fi­ciency in han­dling cargo and to min­imise break­ages, the oper­a­tors need to in­vest in han­dling equip­ment. There is a lack of ba­sic equip­ment like large base trol­leys, weigh bridges, con­vey­ors, etc. “On the IT side, the trans­parency is lack­ing. No stake­holder is will­ing to hold data trans­par­ently and de­fine a SLA. There is a des­per­ate need for trans­parency in the work­ing of the stake­hold­ers. We need to de­fine SLAs for each agency which can be viewed trans­par­ently and re­viewed on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” he stressed.

Ac­cord­ing to Su­man Dhaulta, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, KVM Air­cargo, there should be more job re­spon­si­bil­i­ties from the pri­vate ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors. It is be­cause of pri­vate in­vest­ments and ini­tia­tives that the in­fra­struc­ture has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly. But there should be a skill en­hance­ment to utilise the in­fra­struc­ture op­ti­mally. There should be more fa­cil­i­ties for han­dling tem­per­a­ture sen­si­tive cargo and more truck docks for smoothen­ing op­er­a­tions. “We should bring in some se­ri­ous mech­a­nisms for in­ter­ac­tions be­tween ship­pers and ter­mi­nal oper­a­tors for the greater in­ter­est of the in­dus­try and the coun­try’s econ­omy,” she con­cluded.

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