India's digital customs clearance is stuck after nearly a month of congestion delay
Poor digitisation plans are causing chronic delays in customs clearance and exacerbating the country's container shortage crisis.
Rakesh Pandit, CHIEF executive of Logistics firm Conbox Logistics, said Indian importers were already struggling due to covid-19 restrictions and weak demand in the domestic market.
"It takes a long time to clear customs, especially from the Far East, because of the new system.""The government is trying to encourage domestic manufacturing and restrict imports of goods," he said.
Pandit said the delays could be resolved in the next few weeks, but until then importers would have to bear additional demurrages and documentation costs.
In fact, delays in customs clearance have lengthened from 15-20 days to 25-30 days, according to local media reports, adding to the woes of India's import and export trade with a shortage of containers and rising freight rates.
Since June, the Anonymous Assessment initiative has been launched at Indian ports to implement contactless and paperless customs clearance.
But since the launch, customs clearance times have increased and importers and exporters have faced numerous "hidden costs", according to the Mundra Customs Brokers Association (MCBA).
In a letter to the prime minister, MCBA said: "Customs officers have begun to harass trade in a number of ways, including unnecessary inquiries and inspection orders.Brokers are forced to appoint middlemen to do assessments at other ports, causing additional costs to be indirectly passed on to importers."
"Importers have no choice but to meet the assessment officer's demands in order to keep their business."
In addition, protests by farmers in Punjab province have reportedly affected 5,000 containers after blocking the railway at northern India's largest land port.Sharad Kumar Saraf, President of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said the situation was "serious" and had damaged India's reputation as a stable supplier.
Mohit Singla, chairman of the Indian Council for the Promotion of Trade, added: "Industries are getting a lot of orders from around the world, but the shortage of containers in ports is causing the food and beverage, processed food, clothing, leather, pharmaceutical, medical equipment and chemical industries to suffer extreme delays."