The need of the hour in the ports and shipping sector is higher benchmarks and aggressive embracing of digitalisation and advanced state-of-the-art technology. This was the gist drawn at one-of-its-kind event held onboard Karnika Cruise off the coast of Mumbai in January that was attended by leaders and stakeholders from the ports fraternity.
The Central Government has embarked on an ambitious project aimed at creating port capacity of 3,200 million metric tonnes (MMT)by 2020-end from the existing capacity of 1,514 MMT at major ports along India's 7,517 km coastline that is host to over 200 ports. It is also executing a National Maritime Development Programme with an outlay of $11.8 billion.
Under the government's flagship programme Sagarmala, 334 projects have been initiated in 14 states and union territories and investments made through PPP in the past five years have touched Rs 391.87 billion. Amid this, the revamped Port Community System (PCS) and the National Logistics Portal are expected to connect and provide real-time information to stakeholders on a single platform. Other measures include web-based e-forms and direct port delivery, installation of container scanners and radio frequency identification-based systems for gate automation and digitalisation of land records. Steps are also being taken to create green and sustainable ports.
With a view to discussing and sharing the developments taking place in the Ports sector, the FIRST Construction Council organised the "Revolutionising Ports Conference' in Mumbaiin January. In afirst-of-its-kind approach, the conference, organised on a cruise - Karnika - off the Mumbai coast, focused on the theme 'Integrating India's Maritime Stakeholders".
The conference was attended by Chief Guest Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust; Guest of Honour Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Transport & Ports, Govt of Maharashtra; Special Guest Sanjay Sethi, Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT); Dr A Janardhana Rao, Managing Director, Indian Ports Association (IPA); Shipra Sharma, Director, Ministry of Shipping; and Dr Abhijit Singh, Executive Director, IPA.
Pratap Padode, Founder & Executive Director, FIRST Construction Council, kicked off the event with some hard facts on where India stands. He stated that ports are responsible for carrying out 90 per cent of India's trade by volume and 70 per centof external trade. In FY2019, traffic at major ports reached 699 million tonnes(MT). "But growth is what we are looking at," he pointed out. "Currently, all economies are sputtering. But India still remains on the top. Probably, we are used to much more acceleration."
Highlighting the drivers, he added, "SEZs are being setup in close proximity to major ports. And 100 per cent FDI has been allowed in port and harbour construction and maintenance projects."
Addressing the gathering, Dr A Janardhana Rao said that as part of e-governance, the Govt of India, initiated a process in 2005 called Electronic Data Interchange. This had to be monitored by the cabinet secretariat and a mandate was given to all regulatory functions like customs, ports, airports, inland, etc. "At that time, I was also associated with the project and everyone started doing portals. This was when PCS was envisaged, to ensure that all maritime stakeholders are integrated under one platform to exchange business."
Speaking on the importance of data collection and the need to utilise it properly, Ashish Kumar Singh said,"The way we deal with data is what finally matters. I would only hope data is adopted and appropriately used in projects and plans are laid out to make us one of the most competitive maritime nations in times to come."
In his inaugural address, chief guest Sanjay Bhatia said,"PCS was the original system where some messages were getting exchanged. Despite big claims, stakeholders were not interested. It did not seem to be user-friendly. Subsequently, our IPA team has really worked on it and the idea of PCS 1x was introduced. This is basically a much more user-friendly version of PCS. We took it to the cloud. Stakeholders say they will come in when they see benefits. And benefits will come in when customs introduce API. That stage, too, is over and all stakeholders have to get on board now. SOPs have been prepared by all stakeholders. All the hardware and software that is required from the IPA side for the API integration has been completed. So now there is a clear advantage for the stakeholders to get on board."
Seeking cooperation and support, Shipra Sharma said, "PCS is a system that is trying to tell everybody that it is "we" who are going to bring it together. That is also why we have assembled here, so that we can say that the maritime community stands together under one umbrella, which is the PCS 1x. So let us make this a "we" project, a project that we maritime stakeholders have done together."
Dr Abhijit Singh concluded the inaugural session by thanking all the key dignitaries.This was followed by two panel discussion sessions: "Ports Community System and National Logistics Portal" and "Opportunities (Stakeholder's Perspective) and Digital Transformation of Indian Ports".
Ports Community System and National Logistics Portal
In the first session, presentations were made by Sudhir Kanvinde, Executive Director (IT), IPA, on digitisation of ports; Rajeev Puri, Chief Administrative Officer, IPA, on PCS; and Shirish Shah, COO, Portall Infosystems, on the National Logistics Portal. ôWhile India is heading towards digitalisation, we first need to understand what problems we want to solve, which technology suits best, and how we implement it," said Sudhir Kanvinde, adding: "In the ports sector, the main focus is now on real-time information, i.e., tracking and tracing cargo, vessel planning, route planning, KPI, asset utilisation and monitoring and safety and security, as well as improvement in overall performance. Digitalisation is a key to increasing efficiency and reducing cost.However, that goes hand in hand with policy and people."
On his part, Rajeev Puri listed the key business benefits of PCS: "Cost control: no surcharge; improved automation: focus on the core; interconnectivity: integrating stakeholders; harmonisation across all platforms; cloud solution: access everywhere; enhanced customer delight; planning and decision-making: activity planning; predictability: precautionary actions; increased productivity: process control; and notifications and alerts: real-time notifications."
Highlighting the critical success factors of the National Logistics Portal, Shirish Shah stated, "Success factors include integration of 52 PGAs through the use of API; process standardisation and harmonisation in various ports; mandate for online payment of various services and charges; registration of users of various associations in a timely fashion; mandate for discontinuation of paper-based processes; establishment of clear project scope and boundaries; and creation of a governance model for sustainability."
Stakeholder Opportunities and Digital Transformation of Indian Ports
The second session, moderated by Pratap Padode, included panelists Avinash Chand Rai, COO, Mundra Port; S Sittarasu: Director & Head, Port, Airport & Global Infrastructure, JLL; Sanjiv Garg, ViceChairman (Corporate Affairs), CILT India; Umesh Grover, Secretary General, Container Freight Station Association of India; Devdutta Bose, Group Sector Head-Ports & Harbour, Tata Consulting Engineers; Vivek Kele, Chairman, Federation of Indian Logistics Association; andAshish Deshpande, Pre-Sales Director, RT Com.
The panelists highlighted the need for churning out effective ways to accelerate the ease of export and import, for which ports are the gateways, and the need to improve velocity. Digitalisation is one opportunity that has already been initiated.
While pointing out that a shift from PCSx1 to the National Logistics Portal was happening, they underlined the importance of all stakeholders to realise the benefit because either the entire initiative of setting up PCS can be taken 10 years ahead with stakeholders coming on board in parts, or else, the fraternity unites today and demands services much to the benefit of the sector.
They reiterated that one must realise the benefit that will accrue to the entire industry as a result of PCS and the National Logistics Portal and clarified that it was not about benefit to the creator of the software, but to the fraternity as a whole. The panelists also saw an opportunity in infrastructure connectivity and felt that considering the dry port method of increasing capacity, the need for land cannot be ignored.
They also expressed the need for higher benchmarks. The panelists felt that the country needed to examine where it stood in comparison its neighbours in relation to the overseas cargo.
Lastly, they dwelt upon the issue of investments. It was pointed out that one of the main challengeswas to improve efficiency for investors to believe in India's ability to deliver.
The successful event was presented by the IPA and supported by Sagarmala, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India; Portall Infosystems; and Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. The Associate Partners was Maharashtra Maritime Board, Boskalis and Media Partners were CONSTRUCTION WORLD and INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY.