JNPT pushes uniform Rail and Road Free Storage Times for Freight inside the port

The amount of free storage time for road and rail shipments at India’s top port could soon be the same

MUMBAI: India’s busiest container port is making uniform free storage times for freight handled by road and rail as authorities at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) continue their push to reduce costs and speed supply chains reliant on the port.

JNPT authorities, despite the apprehension of some stakeholders, have reached out to the port regulator Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) for approval to reset the allotted free period for railed cargo to three days, compared with seven days at present, in order to stay on par with the level for truck traffic.

Citing the views of the government, the public port said in its application to TAMP that rail limitations are creating a ripple effect across the port, and that if intermodal train operators are unable to clear inland containers within three days, other logistics modes should instead be used to avoid backlogs that typically result in long dwell times.

“The average dwell time of exim [export-import] containers by rail are on a higher side, as compared to the average dwell time by road,” JNPT said. “This inefficiency has severely affected the importers due to increased cost and time.”

Statistics presented by the port for the December-to-February period showed average dwell times at JNPT as follows: 84.84 hours by train and 31.58 hours by truck for imports; and 106.04 hours by train and 73.69 hours by truck for exports.

The port previously blamed lackadaisical operations by private intermodal rail companies for import backlogs and lengthy dwell times, and said that their service deterioration was impacting proactive measures put in place by state-owned rail operator Container Corporation of India — such as more mixed train deployments — to speed clearance.

In a public notice, TAMP informed stakeholders that they can file their comments on the port proposal until July 18 and that it will hold a joint hearing July 20, before issuing its final order.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Association of Nationwide Shipping Agencies – India (MANSA), which represents the local ship agents’ community, questioned the wisdom of lowering free times and argued that rail inefficiencies are behind the longer dwell times.

“The port must first address the ground reality and how to bring about much needed realistic and practical service level improvements on the part of the Railways or the train operators, which would bring about conditions of improved dwell time, and which in turn can justify lesser free days,” MANSA said in a letter to TAMP.