Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Port Wings Editorial: EXIM sector deserves better deal in this budget


Exports and imports, shortly known as EXIM, are the two yardsticks, which could be taken into account while deciding on the financial condition of any economy.
For a country like India, which is surrounded by sea on three sides and chances for sea-borne cargo movement both locally as well as internationally remains high, EXIM sector never receives the advantage it ought to get in nation-building.
Even though the top honchos from the Exim sector persistently demanded the Government of India to give more importance to the sector time and again, it had never materialized in the last six decades of independence.
For countries in European Union, Exim sector plays a pivotal role in harnessing economic growth. According to the chieftains of those countries in Europe, the sector, which gives them an opportunity to develop their economies without disturbing the nature, has to be given more prominence, as they are the nodal points in disseminating any country’s economy.
However, India, which has abundant opportunities in developing the sector, still lacks in tapping the natural way of growth.
Meanwhile, after the BJP Government taken over the command in New Delhi some nine months ago, there are some serious deliberations on how to improve the EXIM sector to aid country’s economical growth.
Some ideas like improvement of coastal connectivity for cargo movement, extensive use of inland waterways for ferrying cargoes and a few on the same lines, trickled out in the public domain by the Ministry of Shipping.
While these are the last-mile connectivity opportunities, there are many other things, like ensuring financial support for the cargo movement, full utilization of maritime advantages and relaxing colonial rules that hinders growth in the sector, has to be tackled well in the 2015 General Budget.
Simplifying indirect taxation structure, especially excise duty (2 slab rates) and customs duty (3 slab rates) to facilitate GST implementation could augur well in the longer run.
Besides, Make in India initiative should be linked with Foreign Trade Policy in the manufacturing sector to boost the EXIM Sector, whose coronation is overdue.
The regular demand –granting of infrastructure status to shipping, shipyards and other such important segments may be taken this time.
Besides, another important demand like allowing cash surplus PSUs to invest in private sector shipyards to boost domestic ship building industry could also be a gamechanger for the sector. 
Hope the Finance Minister understand the importance of EXIM sector in this budget and show the right place it deserves in nation building.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tirupur Exporters assure cargo support to Chennai Port


Port Wings News Network:

Exporters from the Tirupur region have assured sustained cargo support to Chennai Port if they port management evolves a conducive atmosphere for seamless movement of goods from Tirupur to Chennai.

Addressing the trade meet organised by the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) with an aim to draw the Tirupur knitwear exporters to use the Port at Tirupur on Feb 19, Dr A Sakthivel, President of Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA), said, “The exporters here are ready to use Chennai Port in future if the port management understands the constraints of local exporters and fine tune the process accordingly.

Dr Sakthivel stated: “For years, exporters from the region were using Chennai Port alone for their shipments. Few years ago, when the Port started facing huge congestion, majority of them started moving to other ports like Tuticorin and Cochin. Of the total exports from Tirupur, about 70 % is done through VOC Port, Tuticorin. Local exporters started relying on VOC Port of late, as it is just 6-8 hours drive from here. Besides, the port management is also flexible in accepting containers even in the eleventh hour for immediate shipment.”

“The only problem we face at VOC Port is the mainline vessel connectivity. If the Inland Container Depot (ICD) connectivity from Tirupur directly to the Chennai Port is made possible, exporters could think of sending more shipments through Chennai,” Dr Sakthivel added.

Coming down heavily on the Chennai Port’s gate cut-off concept, where containers have to be delivered in the port three days ahead of actual shipment, Dr Sakthivel said, “In the time of global stiff competition in knitwear segment, sending the cargo for shipment more than a week earlier is not only impossible, but also not economically viable to the trade which thrives on thin profit margin.”
“So, my request to the port management is to remove such barriers to attract knitwear shipments from Tirupur. The port could rightaway attract more shipments from the region if they introduce direct vessel service to USA, as our country’s majority of knitwear exports goes there. If such vessel service begins from Chennai, traders from Tirupur could save 4-5 days (spent on transshipment), which is huge in today’s competition,” Dr Sakthivel added.

Reacting to the plain demands from the Tirupur exporters, Mr I. Jeyakumar, Deputy Chairman of Chennai Port Trust, assured that the port management would study all the available options to attract exports from the region.
“We are going to introduce radio frequency ID for containers and trucks and also planning a few other initiatives, to bring down the transportation time of the boxes to the vessels,” said Mr Jeyakumar.
He also said that steps would be taken in consultation with shipping lines and container terminal operators to introduce mother vessels to the United States.
“At present, 11 mother vessels are calling on Chennai Port of which three are Europe-bound ones,” he pointed out.
Mr Jeyakumar also announced that the port would start a toll free number shortly to address the grievances of port users under a single window system.
Besides others, Mr. M.P.Muthurathinam – President, Tirupur Exporters And Manufacturers Association (TEAMA), Mr K Senthilraj, Sub-Collector, Tirupur, Mr Dileep T Abraham, President, Coimbatore Custom House and Steamer Agents Association (CHAASAAC) and Mr. N. Sreekumar, Chief General Manager, Container Corporation of India Ltd, Chennai, spoke.

Port Wings Impact: Chief Commissioner of Customs inspects CWC, posts 2 more officers


Port Wings News Network:
Reacting to a news item published in Port Wings on lack of 24X7 Customs Clearance facilities at CWC Madhavaram titled “Missing round-the-clock Customs Clearance affects EXIM Trade,”  few weeks ago, Mr S Ramesh, Chief Commissioner of Chennai Customs, visited the terminal few days ago and conducted on-spot verification.
According to sources, the Chief Commissioner, accompanied by a group of senior Customs officials including the Docks Admin, visited the CWC Madhavaram Facility and enquired about the existing status of Customs clearances services there.
Unimpressed with the reply of Customs officials (posted at the facility), who claimed that transporters as well as Customs Brokers never come to CWC Madhavaram at night hours for clearing their cargoes, Mr Ramesh enquired about it with those CHA agents and transport clerks present there during the inspection who clearly disputed the claim.
We are very happy that Port Wings had highlighted the lack of 24X7 Customs clearance at CWC Madhavaram elaborately in its issue two weeks ago and it could have led to the inspection by top Customs official,” said a transport clerk, present during the high-profile inspection.
Since the issue highlighted by the Port Wings found to be true during the inspection, Mr Ramesh immediately ordered posting of two more officials at CWC Madhavaram, so as it function as round-the-clock facility.
Besides, the Chief Commissioner of Chennai Customs assured the CHA agents and transport clerks on improving basic amenities like rest room and canteen at Madhavaram.
Furthermore, the Chief Commissioner also assured regular inspection and monitoring on functioning of Customs officers at Madhavaram as well as other such facilities in future.

Reacting to the Chief Commissioner’s latest gesture towards the trade, Exim fraternity, especially those exports perishable goods like seafood and onion from the region, thanked the Chief Commissioner of Chennai Customs and Port Wings for making the CWC Madhavaram truly a 24X7 facility.
With the 24X7 operation in true sense began at CWC Madhavaram few days ago, serpentine queue of trailers seen along the Inner Ring Road for Customs clearance earlier had vanished now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

AAPsolute message to India


Port Wings Editorial, Feb 18, 2015:

The scale of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) victory in New Delhi Assembly elections was beyond everybody’s expectations.
The BJP, which received a clear and comprehensive mandate to rule the whole India just nine months ago, finished it tally in single digits, while the Congress party, which had ruled the state until two years ago, failed even to open its account at the election.

Though the AAP won 67 seats out of 70, the task before Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal now is to fulfill the promises it made to the Delhi electorate. Their promise of abundant supply of water, free wifi and electricity at cheap rates will come to haunt them throughout their tenure of five years and they may never be able to fulfill this to the satisfaction of all.
However, the distinguishing feature of AAP is their claim to provide an honest administration free from corruption and applying checks on bribery and black money.
While the AAP is in cloud nine given the mandate they got, BJP, which had claimed to sweep the Delhi polls using the charisma of its leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, probably got a message from the public that handling of AAP could be easier than the BJP in Delhi.
While the post-mortem of electoral debacle by BJP could throw several results, which may include the civil-disobedience agitation by local BJP when the national leadership decided to go with outsider Kiran Bedi as BJP’s face in Delhi and factionalism, time has come to the BJP to understand the message sent by the voters of Delhi, who clearly knows that AAP can’t deliver their promises without any support from BJP-led Centre.
The AAP emerged as a powerful alternative to the BJP in Delhi. But it is still very much uncertain whether the AAP will be able to repeat this success at the national level.
The performance of the BJP government during the first few months in office has demonstrated the dangers of have a single party rule in this country particularly when that party has little devotion to ideals like secularism and inter religious and communal harmony.
For Modi, these election results should lead to some reassessment about his party and his government’s priorities.
The people of India gave Modi a decisive mandate in May 2014 to govern, and govern effectively. And if AAP’s war cry of anti-corruption is still managing to cut ice with ordinary voters in the nation’s capital, it clearly denotes that Modi’s governance paradigm leaves much to be desired.
Whether or not the win for AAP in Delhi is a turning point in Indian polity remains to be seen. There are few indications yet that Indians are dissatisfied with the Modi government. It is time for the BJP to recognise that all’s not well and that AAP’s victory will change Indian politics considerably, much of it to the BJP’s detriment, unless it learns its lessons and starts delivering on its commitments.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chennai Port’s proactive measures ease congestion


Port Wings News Network:
Sustained as well as coordinated efforts by the Chennai Port management for the past few weeks have resulted in easing the trailer congestion, which has been a synonym for the port for years.
Mr Atulya Misra, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust
Speaking to Port Wings jointly, Mr Atulya Misra, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) and Mr I Jeyakumar said that the port management’s efforts on easing congestion of container trailers have borne expected results and we have achieved what was not achievable until a few weeks ago.
For the last few years, the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) has been witnessing long haul trailers lined up for miles, sometime upto 20 kms till Ernavoor, to get into the two container terminals through its Zero Gate.
Mr I Jeyakumar, Deputy Chairman, Chennai Port Trust
Mr I Jeyakumar, Deputy Chairman, Chennai Port Trust
As a cascading effect of the growing container trade, problem of congestion by box-laden trailers started rearing its ugly head. At one point of time, the EXIM fraternity in Chennai, including the transporters, started blaming the Chennai Port management for not taking adequate measures to nip the congestion issue in its bud itself.
Though the port management took several initiatives, due to some external factors beyond their limit, they fell flat and congestion was taking monstrous proportion.
The congestion also led to diversion of containers and other commodities to nearby ports such as Krishnapatnam, Karaikal, Kakinada, Visakhapatnam, Kamarajar, L&T Kattupalli and VO Chidambaranar Port.
On a question about how the port managed the issue and pulled it back to normalcy, they said, “With the concerted efforts of our team of HoDs, we were able to set several things on right perspective, which finally culminated into a result-oriented process.”
“We are happy that the congestion has become a thing of past in Chennai Port and we can proudly say that we are successful in reducing the 24-hour transit time for trailers into just eight hours. With the proposed introduction of RFID-enabled process from the third week of February, the transit time could be brought well within four hours that is a healthy sign for the EXIM trade,” both the senior officials told Port Wings.
Speaking about the measures which had helped the port to ease congestion, they said, “Measures like termination of export-cargo boxes at CFSs, removal of double checking of Customs officers inside the port premises, streamlining of trailer movement inside as well as outside the port, daily monitoring of productivity at both the container terminals and other similar measures have helped the port to ease congestion issue comprehensively.”
Roads leading Chennai Port, which were earlier full of waiting container-laden trailers, now looks free.
Roads leading Chennai Port, which were earlier full of waiting container-laden trailers, now looks free.
“With these measures in place, we hope that we would be in a better position to market Chennai Port infront of the EXIM trade in the region and bring back those players who moved to other ports due to congestion,” they further added.

15 months on, CWC’s seal verification centre still a dream


Port Wings News Network:

With the view to decreasing the congestion of container-laden trailers along Ennore Expressway and Madhavaram to the port, Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) on Nov 29, 2013 inaugurated its parking yard cum seal verification centre at Thiruvottiyur.

However, 15 months have passed by now, but nothing moved beyond the proposal level. And now the Exim fraternity in Chennai has appealed to the CWC to start the operations soon at Thiruvottiyur as two other ports in close proximity started attracting cargoes originating from the region.

In the presence of Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) managing director Mr B B Patnaik and Chennai Port Trust Chairman Mr Atulya Misra, the then Union Minister of Shipping Mr G K Vasan inaugurated the operations of the Thiruvottiyur Parking Yard by flagging off the first container-laden trailer to the yard.
Chennai Port has developed in the first phase the parking facility for around 250 trailers investing around Rs 6 crores in 17,500 sq metrers area.
On full functioning, all Chennai Port-bound laden container lorries shall first come to the parking yard and after verification of all the documents shall proceed to the port and there would not be any waiting of container lorries in the Ennore Expressway upto Zero Gate .
The project has been envisaged primarily to reduce traffic congestion created by container trailers in North Chennai.

Though the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC), which has cleared the proposal in mid 2013, Chennai Port had applied to the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance to approval through Chennai Customs.
About the advantages of Parking Yard, a senior port official said that besides seal verification and parking facility, we are planning to open a 24X7 pass issuing section inside the yard, so that it could reduce waiting time for trailers as well and agents who throng at main pass section near port premises.

Speaking to Port Wings, a regular exporter said that the CWC should start the seal-verification operations soon and any further delay would not augur not well for both the Chennai Port as well as CWC, who is having another similar facility at Madhavaram.

“L&T Kattupalli Port has started attracting more containers and if the CWC fully operationalises both of its seal verification facilities (Madhavaram & Thiruvottiyur) it would help the big time exporters who bank on stuffing in their own warehouses and customs clearance at these facilities,” the exporter added.

When contacted, Mr.A.T.Shankar, Regional Manager, CWC, told Port Wings that the seal verification centre proposal at Thiruvottiyur  has crossed several hurdles and waiting for the final approval, which could be anytime in next few weeks.

“Once the IMC meeting slated in coming weeks clears the proposal, we would approach the Chennai Customs   Commissionerate for final approval and once the clearance comes, it will be a matter of few days to begin operations there,” the official added.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

EXIM Community of Andhra Pradesh Pins Hope on Centre for Growth


Port Wings News Network:

After the bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh State now forced to start from scratch and since the coastal state in East has immense potential to become a maritime hub in future, we expect the Union Government to support development of maritime infrastructure here, Mr. G. Sambasiva Rao, Vice President of Andhra Chambers of Commerce and Industry Federation (Andhra Chamber) and the Managing Director of Sravan Shipping Group has said.

In an exclusive interview to Port Wings after taking over the VP post in Andhra Chamber, Mr Sambasiva Rao, a well-known face among the EXIM fraternity in Andhra Pradesh, said, “After the bifurcation, most of the areas where infrastructure were fully developed,  are now in the Telangana State. The onus is on us, the EXIM fraternity, to ensure that the districts in the Andhra Pradesh get due attention by the state as well as Union governments in coming months.”

LOGO-Andhra-ChamberQ. What is the role of Andhra Chamber in ensuring growth in the state?

Mr G Sambasiva Rao: The Andhra Chambers of Commerce and Industry Federation (Andhra Chamber) established in 2000 as a chamber of commerce presently representing the whole state of Andhra Pradesh. It is strategically located at Vijayawada, the center of the New Andhra state the proposed State capital and hub of the state’s economic and political spectrum. The chamber has a three tier membership, representing industry, trade and service.

Q. Though you are wearing several hats, how do you feel about the new role?

GSR: I feel very privileged to be part of the Chamber that is going to make the Andhra State government to act swiftly. The Andhra Chamber has relentlessly pursued the agenda of identifying business opportunities & challenges, addressing critical issues with the single minded focus of sustainable growth in the region. The chamber has been instrumental in influencing policy frameworks and changes. It played an advocacy role on a wide range of matters and acting as impetus to growth and developmental matters. The chamber is frequently organizing interactive meetings with ministers, senior bureaucrats to express and drive home its views. The chamber provided a platform for interaction to expand business and address issues affecting growth of business in the State.

Q. How the EXIM trade from Vizag region is growing?

GSR: Though the whole AP region suffered a lot during Hudhud Cyclone last year, container freight stations and other allied facilities related to exim sector came out from the losses and recorded a modest growth between 10 and 15 % year-on-year basis.

Q. What is your expectation from new Andhra Government?

GSR: Though the Chamber is representing State and Central Governments on issues affecting the commerce and industry regularly, our expectation from the new state government is that they should identify the potential development areas in the state and act according to keep up the growth momentum, which had gone missing after the bifurcation. Moreover, we feel it is our job to help the Chief Minister Naidu in identifying those core areas, which would bring more revenue to the state.

Q. What is your expectation from new Union Government?

GSR:  Since the Andhra Pradesh is blessed with good coastline, the state government in coordination with the Union Government could develop more ports. Our Chief Minister Mr Naidu had already rolled out his plans to develop many smaller ports along the coast.
Besides, we expect that the Centre could come out with more details about Duggarajapatnam Major Port, being planned by the Ministry of Shipping in the state in the Budget. We expect excellent support from the Union Government in turning the Vizag region, where the ambitious “Smart City” Project is set to begin, in to a major maritime hub in the East Coast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Port Wings Editorial: Tread cautiously while getting closer to USA

Port Wings Editorial, Feb 04, 2015;

In recent months, after BJP-led National Democratic Alliance wrested power from Congress, a popular sentiment within some circles in Washington as well as in New Delhi has been the possibility of a strategic relationship between the United States and India.
As anticipated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was consistently denied visa (as Chief Minister of Gujarat) by the USA authorities for his alleged role in Gujarat Riots, went to the United States in September last as the Indian Prime Minister to attend United Nations General Assembly.
The reception PM Modi received in the American soil, be it at the UNGA or at the Madision Square Garden, totally changed the US perspective on Modi as Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy.
After marking his presence emphatically in the USA, PM Modi invited the American President Barack Obama to India’s Republic Day celebration back in New Delhi, which the latter readily accepted and graced the occasion few days ago.
With these heartwarming steps, President Obama has clearly demonstrated that India occupies a top position of the table in his diplomacy.It is not difficult to find reasons why there are advocates in both countries who are in favour of such a relationship.
For the United States, its overt core interests in the Asia-Pacific region are stability and the continuation of the current order it helped establish following the conclusion of the World War-II. Tacitly, it has a vested interest in maintaining its position as the dominant regional power – which in turn means that it must compete with a rising China, which seeks to wear the crown west of the Hawaiian Islands.
From the perspective of India, any increased or dedicated engagement with the United States at the expense of its long-established ties with Russia should be seen as a risky endeavor.
While Russia is a natural ally of India and wields handsome power in the United Nations General Assembly with Veto Power, inching towards America for securing permanent seat in UNGA would not augur well with both the Russia and China, the regional superpowers.
Though the USA-backed analysts spread across the globe had written off Russia of late as the country was facing 1990-style economic slowdown, history had proved again and again that the country, which has huge gas reserves and wealthy minerals bounced back and directly stared at the eyes of USA.
So, blindly buying the US theory on Russia and China and getting closer to the USA for New World Order could be proved drastically wrong in the longer run.
So, tread cautiously while inching closer to USA

Monday, February 2, 2015

Missing round-the-clock Customs Clearance affects EXIM Trade


Port Wings News Network:
While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly  advocating for “Make in India” and emphasizing on increasing exports from the country on every business forum to infuse growth in the economy, lack of enthusiasm from Customs Department, mainly responsible for facilitating export and import (Exim) trade, is affecting the sector, traders say.

According to regular users, though the CWC Madhavaram in the outskirts of Chennai had been nominated as 24X7 facility by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) for seal verification and to issue Let Export Order (LEO) for factory-stuffed containers and for MOT stuffing about two years ago, Customs officials vanishes after 10 pm everyday and clearances of those containers reaching in the evening hours done only the next day afternoon.
Exporters from the state as well as from neighouring states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka , who stuff their goods in their factory and plan their shipment through Chennai Port, prefer the CWC Madhavaram facility as it is located along Inner Ring Road (IRR) with excellent road connectivity for all factory stuffed and Central Excise–sealed cargoes.
Though there were 30-odd CFSs in Chennai, the seal verification of factory stuff containers was being done only at the CWC Madhavaram CFS.

Speaking to Port Wings, a regular exporter seeking anonymity said, “We moved our factory-stuffed containers to CWC Madhavaram on one fine evening (9 pm) few weeks ago thinking that it would be cleared soon and can be moved to Chennai Port within hours as it is round-the-clock facility. However, to our dismay, we have been told by the staff at the facility that Customs officials left for the day and they will be available only by noon the next day.”
“I don’t understand the concept and meaning of round-the-clock facility when its being just 10 or 12 hours a day at CWC Madhavaram,” lamented the exporter.

Due to the Customs Officials’ “fixed vanishing act” at CWC Madhavaram, container trailers loaded with commodities including seafood, automobiles, cocopeat and so many other high-value products, are forced to make long queue inside as well as outside the facility just for a 5-minute work.

According to port users, about 500-600 factory-stuffed or MOT-containers reach the CWC Madhavaram facility every day and in the absence of practical round-the-clock Customs clearance, more than 50 percent of them are forced to wait for more than 12 hours until the Customs officers resume the clearance.
Due to the delay, container trailers, for not of their fault, get accumulated in and around the Madhavaram facility.
“If the Customs clearance happen round-the-clock as promised to us by the Customs and the Chennai Port, it will not only reduce congestion of trailers on road upto Chennai Port, but also increase productivity and bring more revenue for the government of India,” said another exporter, who is also facing  problems at Madhavaram.
“Just like Railway counters that operate round-the-clock, Customs should also be forced to work like them wherever it is 24X7 and only then, the Prime Minister’s dream of becoming a developed economy turn true. Until unless CBEC board make its field staff accountable for any delay, it will not happen and becoming a Developed Nation will remain as dream only,” added the exporter.


Irked over the sullied image of Exim fraternity from the region before the international customers due to delays in shipments, they have appealed to the Union Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Mr Pon Radhakrishnan to intervene at the highest level, either with the Finance Ministry (under whom the CBEC Board falls) or with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and bring real changes in Customs approach towards trade.
According to a section of exporters, it is high time that the Finance Ministry directly monitor the EXIM affairs, especially in Chennai, to ensure timely movement of goods.