‘Digital disruptions are changing cargo scenario’

There are many disruptions regarding cargo movement in USA and Europe. However, in India, cargo movement is happening smoothly thanks to government initiatives such as Gati Shakti Master Plan and Atmanirbhar Bharat among others and industry supported by ports, airports, roads, ICDs and CFS, says Shankar Shinde, Chairman, FFFAI.

The Federation of Freight Forwarders in India (FFFAI) organised its 24th Biennial Convention in Chennai from August 12 to 14 with the theme—’Logistics-Reshape, Embrace and Surge in the Digital Era’.

While addressing the audience at the convention, Shankar Shinde, Chairman, FFFAI stressed on the importance of changing scenario of the global logistics industry due to digital disruption and its impact on the same. He said that currently the manufacturing industry is undergoing the phase of Industrial Revolution 4.0 due to massive use of IT owing to the invention of steam engine, automation, and computerization. Quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “IT+IT= IT (India’s Talent +IT = India Tomorrow),” Shinde stated that logistics professionals will have to seize the opportunity for their survival and growth by adopting smart technologies for a way forward.

He commended the initiatives of the present government to proactively resolve the problems being faced by the exporters/importers, customs brokers/ freight forwarders and, logistics industry through various policy and regulatory mechanisms and infra development. In his opinion, the Gati Shakti Master Plan would be a landmark decision to develop the multimodal logistics infra and connectivity in the country.  He also emphasized on concerted efforts of different trade associations and industry chambers in collaboration with the present government to achieve the country’s target of US$5 million economy by 2015, in which contribution of the logistics industry would be the key factor.

Among those who took part in the Convention included Amrit Lal Meena, Special Secretary (Logistics), Union Ministry of Commerce, Niraj Ambani, Group President-Supply Chain, Reliance Industries Ltd, Dr Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, World Customs Organisation (WCO), Shashi Kiran Shetty, CMD, Allcargo Logistics and Chairman, National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Dr Ivan Petrov, President, FIATA, Shankar Shinde, Chairman, FFFAI, AV Vijayakumar, Convenor and Immediate Past Chairman, FFFAI and, Dushyant Mulani, Chairman-Elect, FFFAI.

Vijayakumar elaborated on the Convention’s theme and urged the stakeholders to adopt digitization. While delivering special address, Shashi Kiran Shetty elaborated on the growth trajectory of India’s economy and the country’s potential of positioning itself as a manufacturing and logistics hub.

“Contribution of logistics industry to the nation’s economy was unrecognized. However, the emergence of e-commerce and disruptions due to the pandemic showed the role being played by the logistics industry. I appreciate the government has duly recognized it,” said Shetty and continued, “We are witnessing disruptions regarding cargo movement in many areas such as USA and Europe. However, in India, cargo movement is happening smoothly thanks to efforts from the government and industry supported by ports, airports, roads, ICDs and CFS infrastructure.” Shetty also urged for a well-defined policy document for the logistics industry to grow further.  He also emphasized on the responsible logistics and appealed the fraternity to work for green logistics and women empowerment.

Focusing on the shipper’s perspective and changing requirements of the customers, Ambani highlighted the gradual improvement of logistics services in the country with required policy and regulatory support from the government. He said the National Logistics Policy will be the much-desired announcement in this regard to shape up the industry to world standard. He commended the ULIP initiative of the government under the PM Gati Shakti Master Plan.

Meena highlighted the role being played by the customs brokers, freight forwarders, and logistics service providers to streamline the manufacturing and EXIM trade. He also recognized the vital role played by the logistics service providers during the pandemic and lockdowns to ferry vaccines, equipment, and essential goods. He assured full support from the government to this sector through various forward looking and industry-friendly initiatives.

Introduction of E-FBL

The FIATA Bill of Lading (e-FBL) was introduced at the recently concluded FFFAI Convention by Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Minister of AYUSH, who was invited as the Chief Guest to inaugurate the business sessions on 13 August 2022. The FIATA Paperless Bill of Lading allows the forwarders to issue secured eFBL through their everyday tools such as TMS and other software, facilitating the issuance process by removing double data entry. The forwarders can then decide in which format they wish to share the document: as a secured printed document or in digital format. Established 30 years ago, the Negotiable FIATA Multimodal Transport Bill of Lading is a trustworthy trade document, which includes the necessity for the document issuer to be a valid FIATA/National Association member and to have a valid liability insurance. It is the only multimodal Negotiable Standard Bill of Lading, set up by FIATA for use by freight forwarders acting as Multimodal Transport Operators’ (MTO).

It is based on Blockchain Technology and hence provides the much-needed transparency, security, and accountability in the supply chain. Introducing the eFBL, Shinde said that FFFAI has signed an MoU with FIATA to implement the same in India so as to benefit Indian customs brokers/ forwarders  and improve EoDB in view of the rapid change in the logistics and supply chain sectors owing to digitalisation.

Sonowal stressed upon the importance of an IT-driven logistics industry for rapid development of cargo. And FFFAI’s initiatives in this regard through services such as eFBL would make Indian products reach out to global markets with reduced transaction times and costs, which in turn make Indian products competitive in international markets.