Blockchain technology to drive port community system by December

      08/02/2018

In the next couple of months, the trial version of cloud-based Port Community System (PCS), using blockchain technology, will be up at four of the major Indian ports. Eventually, by December this year all the 12 major ports will host a new PCS.

The idea of a PCS is to integrate the electronic flow of trade related information or documents, which act as a centralised hub for the dozen major Indian ports along with various stakeholders like shipping lines, agents, banks, container freight stations, customs house, custom house agents, importers, exporters, regulatory agencies, railways, surveyors, etc.

Almost a decade ago, the first PCS or PCS 1.0 was designed with the same goals to streamline transactions and activities of the trade. However, the objective was partially met due to “technical obsolescence of PCS 1.0 resulting in a frequent interruption and non-availability of information. The existing PCS set up isn’t user friendly, resulting in the system unable to serve the very purpose it was made for,” said an industry insider.

The growing trade volume means requirement for an upgraded PCS. That’s when the idea of PCS 1x came in, wherein even the existing data from PCS 1.0 will migrate to cloud based storage which will be blockchain enabled.

“It was decided to go in for PCS 1x with mostly the existing functionalities of PCS 1.0 within the minimum possible time frame to mitigate the risk alongwith value added services with a secured system in place,” said Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, Indian Ports Association (an umbrella body of all the 12 major Indian ports).

“To begin with, we would try the system at a few ports of Chennai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Vishakhapatnam and Deendayal (Kandla) in September,” said Dhruv K. Kotak, joint managing director of J M Baxi & Company. Post these trials at the terminals of these four ports, the final system would be put into place later in 2018.

“We would deliver the entire system by December,” added Kotak. The delivery of the PCS would entail not only introducing blockchain technology to integrate functioning at major ports across the India, but also migration of data from the present server-based storage to cloud-based storage as well as integrating existing port operating systems.

Even the customs department has agreed to be a part of PCS, as they would be sharing the needed information for faster clearances.

Once this is in place, it is expected to digitally revolutionise the export-import trade as this system would bring in efficiency in handling and forwarding documents thereby reduction transaction cost and time.

“Currently, it even takes a month for the entire transaction to be through right from the bill of entry to custom clearance. With PCS, it would cut down drastically, but at this juncture we won’t be able to know how much time will get saved. It is only after a few weeks of the initial implementation at the four ports, we will get to know how much time and money is saved,” said Kotak.

The primary objectives of PCS is to have a centralised web-based application that can be a single window for port community stakeholders to electronically, in a secured format, exchange messages, reduce transaction time as well as cost, have a paperless or digital system apart from being a data repository for research and analysis. This system may act as a catalyst in reducing turnaround time for ships and eventually may also help in improved ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings at the major Indian ports.

J M Baxi & Company is working along IBM to come up with PCS. Already the company has blockchain enabled system in place to manage their own businesses.

WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY?

Initially designed for a cryptocurrency, the technology derives its name from the processes involved in cryptocurrency. A block is a record of new transactions (that could be either location, data, documents, or a mix of all). Once each block is completed it’s added to the chain, creating a chain of blocks, hence, called a blockchain. These blocks are encrypted.

PCS 1X FEATURES

Robust message exchange platform uniting trade on a single platform, Open flexible architecture allowing addition and management of stakeholders & their requirements, Availability of various integration points via dashboards, Offering workflow, transparency and audit trails across life of a transaction, Ability to bring in industry specific functionality such as cargo booking, vehicle booking system etc as latch on solutions, To be integrated with various government services such as Sarathi, Vahaan and Aadhar through proposed SWIFT, A unique payments solution, Integrate with customs in real-time, To be originator and termination points for all trade transaction with a national database, An on-demand document production and document exchange system/