Turning around Indian Ports – Enhancing India’s Global Competitiveness through Port Efficiency | 18 January 2024 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the recent improvements in Indian port performance, highlighting both the progress made and the remaining hurdles to overcome.


  • GS3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc


  • India aims to bolster its position in global value chains, with a focus on the efficiency of its logistics sector, particularly maritime transportation, which handles a substantial portion of the country's exports.
  • The performance of seaports plays a pivotal role in India's competitiveness on the global stage. 95% of India's export volume and 70% by value rely on maritime transport, making port performance crucial.
  • Despite significant improvements in recent years, Indian ports still face challenges in achieving global competitiveness. Reducing uncertainty and smoothening non-customs processes are crucial for India's future logistic efficiency.


  • India's Port Improvements:
    • India's maritime ambitions hinge on efficient ports. Recognizing this, the government has implemented multiple initiatives like Sagarmala, Bharatmala, and PM Gati Shakti to improve port performance.
    • These efforts have borne fruit, with turnaround times dropping 50% over the past decade. This progress is reflected in India's improved ranking on the World Bank's Logistics Performance Index.
  • Challenges and Disparities:
    • However, challenges remain. Compared to the global median of 1.04 days, India's average turnaround time of 2.1 days still pales in comparison to top performers like Norway (0.4 days).
    • Furthermore, significant port-to-port disparities exist. While Jawaharlal Nehru Port boasts a turnaround time of 1.2 days, Deendayal Port, Vishakhapatnam Port, and Mumbai Port lag behind at 3.2, 3, and 2.8 days respectively.
  • Bottlenecks Beyond Clearance:
    • Another metric, average release time, provides a fuller picture. While customs clearance takes only 0.8 days on average, the remaining 6.5 days highlight bottlenecks elsewhere. These include time taken for truck entry, security clearances, and cargo loading.
  • High Standard Deviation in Processing Times:
    • A key issue is the high standard deviation in processing times. This uncertainty leads to exporters and importers building in buffer times, further inflating total dwell time. While the standard deviation has decreased, it remains high, highlighting the need for greater process predictability.
  • Recommendations for Progress:
    • Smoothing non-customs processes: Streamlining processes beyond customs clearance, such as truck entry and loading, is crucial.
    • Minimizing uncertainty: Reducing variability in processing times can encourage tighter scheduling and eliminate unnecessary buffer times.
    • Data-driven optimization: Leveraging data to identify and address specific bottlenecks at individual ports can further enhance efficiency.
    • Continuous improvement: Maintaining a focus on ongoing improvement, benchmarking against global best practices, and adapting to evolving needs are essential for sustained success.

Way Forward:

  • While India has made commendable progress in port efficiency, achieving global competitiveness requires further efforts to address process bottlenecks, reduce time variation, and ensure greater certainty for exporters and importers. By focusing on these areas, India can unlock the full potential of its ports and drive economic growth.

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