Shipping Ministry Wants Electronic Trade Documents To Be Recognised

For smooth cargo operations at India’s ports amid the coronavirus pandemic, the shipping ministry has sought the commerce ministry’s intervention for issuing advisory for recognition of electronic trading documents instead of “manual trade documentation” that are still required by many departments and financial institutions.

The Ministry has been citing bottlenecks caused in handling EXIM cargo on account of the current manual process, it sought the commerce ministry’s intervention for issuing advisory to departments, including customs, and the Indian Banks Association for accepting ‘electronically generated trade documentation’.

India has 12 major ports — Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) that handled nearly 705 million tonnes (MT) cargo in 2019-20.

The Shipping Secretary has said the inability of service providers such as courier agencies, general lockdown restrictions and the requirement of social distancing are causing severe impediment in issuance, delivery and despatch of physical format based trade documentation, which is directly impacting the release of import containers and cargo.

Stating that the current manual process that requires surrender of original bill of lading (BL) at the shipping lines office, collection of paper invoice and payment by cash and collection of paper delivery order issued by then shipping line add up to 11.5 hours of person-to-person contact on an average, the Shipping Ministry has said that this not only creates a high level of risk with the contagious nature of COVID-19 but results in considerable delays in release of cargo. Considering the present circumstances on account of COVID-19.