The government plans to overhaul 300-odd dry ports in the country to resolve infrastructural constraints faced by exporters and importers to give a fillip to India’s foreign trade.
The commerce ministry has set the ball rolling to assess the laws governing dry ports, their subsidies and funding patterns, and streamline them with other ports in accordance with global practices. “We are planning a comparative assessment of regulatory mechanism for dry ports including laws governing their functioning,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
The assessment will compare inland container depots (ICDs), which are considered dry ports, and their functioning in nearly 10 countries.
The study comes in the wake of high interest in developing ICDs, container freight stations and air freight stations following the Rs 8 lakh crore Sagarmala project aimed at port-led development of the country.
“Developing a dry port involves high costs and obsolete procedures for movement of cargo besides a plethora of clearances from various departments,” said a Delhi-based trade expert, who did not wish to be named.
Dry port is an inland terminal that provides services for handling, temporary storage, inspection and customs clearance for international freight. It is usually located where networks of different transportation modes converge and is directly connected by rail or road to a sea port.
The move is expected to boost foreign trade as the study seeks to analyse the transaction costs involved in trade and aims to establish new dry ports based on location and logistics mix. Although India’s exports rose 30% in November from a year before, experts said merchandise exports in 2017-18 could be less than $300 billion. In 2016-17, India’s exports amounted to $274.6 billion.
The study will include performance monitoring and pricing regulations in other countries and suggest changes in the Indian context. The government plans to engage a consultancy firm to implement the study and suggest government interventions for efficient functioning of dry ports.
The government also plans to identify regulatory framework by benchmarking international best practices with Indian operational standards.
“We will identify practices to streamline with other ports and hinterland,” said the official cited earlier.
Dry ports are known to improve logistics, supply chain and reduce capacity constraints faced by sea ports. “It is a good move to study the condition of our dry ports including land customs stations at borders with Nepal and Bangladesh, especially analyse factors like loading, unloading and turnaround time,” the expert said.