Mumbai, India
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India’s new port community system is a “game-changer” for shipping operations, and is set to help reduce the high logistics costs in the country.

Known as PCS1x, the platform will improve India’s ease of doing business and cut container dwell times, according to Manish Mrigank, assistant director at the ministry of shipping’s Indian Ports Association (IPA).

“PCS1x will be transformational for the port ecosystem,” he told The Loadstar.

“The main objective is to create a single platform of information exchange for all stakeholders in the maritime ecosystem, to bring transparency and operational efficiency.”

The “single-window” cloud-based platform facilitates secure message exchanges between Indian ports and local stakeholders, including shipping lines, terminal operators, freight forwarders, inland transport, customs authorities and banks.

It is currently in operation at 19 ports, including Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru (JNPT), India’s biggest container gateway, with volumes of over 5m teu. Mr Mrigank said the system would be rolled out to all the country’s 200 ports in the near future.

He said the main advantages of PCS1x was to reduce paper-based transactions and introduce process optimisation and standardisation for ports, terminals and other stakeholders, such as the digitisation of key processes surrounding gate operations.

It has already allowed one port to slash the time taken to handle vessel submissions, Mr Mrigank noted.

“Currently one port takes an average of 30 hours to approve the vessel profile submission after it’s requested. PCS1x helped identify the bottleneck and bring down the response time to 30 minutes.”

Streamlining payments for port services is another key improvement, Mr Mrigank said. The PCS1x payment gateway simplifies the invoice transaction process, since currently most ports use personal deposit accounts at various banks, which customers must pay into.

“The new payment aggregator solution provides the transaction within hours between any two banks. This is a giant leap towards ease of doing business and will help in the improved invoice reconciliation process, easy dispute resolution and ease of cashflow and fund management,” he explained.

However, there were teething problems with the launch of the system, according to local media, with some stakeholders blaming a lack of preparation for software glitches.

“Considering the wide scope of the project and tight deadline – it was completed within seven months – there was initial apprehension during the stabilisation period, but all the concerns have been addressed and this has been a successful journey so far,” Mr Mrigank said.

The port community system is one of several initiatives to reorganise India’s fragmented logistics industry. Last year the government announced a National Logistics Portal to help bring down logistics costs from 14% of GDP to 10% by 2022, including an eMarketplace of logistics services, including freight booking and tracking across all transport modes, price discovery and payments.

Mr Mrigank said PCS1x would connect to the portal, allowing for container track-and-trace, which would be a “game-changing experience for the whole ecosystem”.

“I feel PCS1x is just a step towards a better, efficient and transformation journey for port industry modernisation. With the advent of new technologies such as blockchain, AI and machine learning, maritime stakeholders can definitely leverage these to become even more efficient and robust,” he added.

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