FFFAI hopeful for sustainable revival

For many years, Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) has been working for benefit of logistics and freight forwarding sectors. Shankar Shinde, Chairman, in an exclusive interview with talks about recent innovations, developments, and future of industry.

CT Bureau

Looking at the current market scenario, how do you foresee the future of the freight forwarding and logistics sector?

The sector’s growth depends on the global market scenario. As per the WTO’s latest forecast, trade is expected to grow by 3.0 per cent in 2022, as against its previous forecast of 4.7 per cent and 3.4 per cent. However, these estimates are less certain than usual due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in many parts of the world. FFFAI appreciates CBIC’s support in keeping the logistics wheel turning through contactless and paperless initiatives, especially during the peak of COVID-19. The government’s industry-friendly initiatives and intervention to address issues have resulted in manufacturing, EXIM trade, and freight forwarding industry growth. We are optimistic about the revival of the industry due to the resilience shown by this sector. India has also been able to project itself as a potential manufacturing/logistics hub in the region.

At present, what are the challenges plaguing the freight forwarding sector?

We welcome the government’s initiatives on reducing logistics costs, transaction costs, and time through various trade facilitation measures, infrastructure building, and enhancing multimodal connectivity. The PM Gati Shakti is the game changer in this regard. The results of earlier initiatives such as SWIFT, DPD, AEO, and Faceless Assessment have been positive. However, we still have a long way to go. We have raised some issues with the government: lapses in execution of new policies (Faceless Assessment) on ground zero. Concerns in this regard include: Assessment Delay, Anonymised Escalation (as per CBIC circular no.14/2021 para 3.7), an unwelcome high number of queries, Examination Orders, and Bills of Entry being kept aside on Low Priority. Another issue is the non-implementation of the single window system by partner government agencies. The issues are related to Customs ICEGATE, also being raised by FFFAI to streamline cargo clearance.

FFFAI is in dialogue with the government and private entities offering logistics infrastructure services for the betterment of the sector and the larger interest of the country’s economy. A collaborative approach by the government/public agencies and industry stakeholders would be the way forward to achieve the country’s target of becoming a US$ 5 trillion economy by 2025.

Please shed light on recent innovations made by FFFAI in the last few years for the benefit of the industry.

The FFFAI’s aim is to protect and promote the interests of the professionals in all their aspects at the national level, and to that end, co-ordinate the activities of the custom brokers’ associations; to collect and disseminate information to the members; to help the members to acquaint the authorities with their common issues; to protect and improve the common benefits; and to evolve a code of conduct for the custom brokers and/or members of the federation.

FFFAI has put emphasis on making its members cope with the changing landscape of customs broking, freight forwarding, and logistics business. Skill development and adaptation of emerging technologies were the prime focus of its training arm, the Indian Institute of Freight Forwarding (IIFF).

Currently, IIFF provides FIATA-accredited courses to both professionals and aspirants in the logistics industry.

Aside from training, the FFFAI is emphasizing technology adoption in order to remain competitive in the rapidly changing logistics industry as a result of digitization initiatives by the government as well as customer demands. We are currently working with stakeholders to create a cost-effective and secure shared technology platform for mutual benefit.

In association with the government, FFFAI is promoting cost-effective multimodal routes named the International North-South Transport Corridor and has completed a dry run study for the government. The FFFAI was entrusted with the execution of the INSTC Project by the Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the TIR Convention Project through the Union Ministry of External Affairs, which was successful. More such projects are on the anvil.