High Cargo Dwell Time increasing Supply Chain Challenges in India

There is yawning gap between dwell time of Indian and International airports

From a national economic perspective, Air Cargo Transport plays one of the significant roles of a major facilitator in international trade. At a time when a growing proportion of world trade has been carried via air, reducing average dwell time of cargo at airport terminals in respective countries could save consequent costs and enable speedy movement in terms of import and export of goods.

Temporary storage of goods in cargo hubs is one of the essential steps in Air Freight movement, which is comprised of two major parts including carriage of goods from the carriers to cargo storage hub, and vice versa termed as “Cargo Admission and Departure Operation”. The admission and departure operations are not always maintained in balance that subsequently creates problems at airports regarding the storage of massive volumes of goods, which is also termed, as “The Dwelling of Goods”.

In other words, the dwelling of goods is defined as the difference between the amounts of goods entering terminals for a definite period of time with the number of goods exiting terminals in this period for any reason. These goods could be used for many reasons such as export or delivery to the end users. Moreover, the inventory of goods remained needs to be added to this amount.

Longer Dwell Time Increases Costs

Studies worldwide have indicated one of the potential problems at airports, which are expected to be compounded with the growth of the volumes of trade, are the dwelling of goods and its consequent costs. The dwelling of goods results in taking up storage yards and several airport lots through congestion as well as decreasing executive efficiency in loading and discharging which may cause an increase in laytime and demurrage costs. To curb this cost, the government in India has taken several steps including the reduction of the free period for import air cargo from 72 hours to 48 hours.

“Across all major airports in India, we observe the average dwell times between both import and export have dropped significantly in the past two years. However, we do come across some system glitches from time to time. A complete change in the attitude of all players in the air freight supply chain would need some time. “

Ramesh Mamidala, CEO, CELEBI Delhi Cargo Terminal

Less Dwell Time indicates Higher Efficiency

More or less airport dwell time equals the duration cargo is discharged and transported from freights to the hub in order to be stored until the time the goods owner has released the goods and dismissed it from terminals. Where this period exceeds the prescribed time, it is said that the cargo or goods have dwelled.

The longer dwell time of cargo at airport terminals gives rise to several other related issues and stagnate the potential growth rate. While the Indian regulatory authorities and stakeholders are trying to prevent higher dwelling time at terminals, Mr. Mamidala is of the view that it is difficult to apply any standards, as the dwell time depends on several factors that range from regulatory policies, airport infrastructure, airport access infrastructure, IT systems, level of automation, airline/ CHA efficiency, level of adoption of technology, etc. However, he also feels that for most Indian airports, “I think the 12 hours target that the government of India has identified is what the country broadly should aim to achieve,” he adds.

Vipan Jain, COO, Cargo Service Center says, “On the import side, the average time is 60 hours, however, more than 50% of the cargo is cleared within a free period of 48 hours. Here some more measures are required.” While the duration of this depends on several factors and at the same time it indicates the efficiency and performance of the organizational and managerial structure of an airport. That is to say, when goods dwelling time is shorter, it may, to some extent, imply that the airport is performing efficiently at all stages from discharging of cargos until clearing from the customs.

Ideal Dwell Time Mark

It is a known fact that one of the key performance indicators of cargo terminal operations at any airport is the dwell time. Dwell time at Indian airports is much higher than other countries, as officially permitted free period itself is 72 hours, which now recently has been reduced to 48 hours. Import dwell time at International Airports like Delhi and Mumbai is more than 75 hours, while international airports like Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong have import dwell time of fewer than six hours, as per the reports.

Mr Jain says, “The time taken is due to congestion unfortunately, we are not able to spread to the peak hours due to various restrictions including traffic rules, etc., which results into congestion and some delays”.

“Less inspection and more intelligent base checks can further curtail the dwell time. On the export side, after goods acceptance at truck dock, immediate message should trigger to custodian and CHA, if any inspection is required so that rest of the cargo can move in bonded warehouse.By this practice the possible congestion will reduce at acceptance area and even cargo can be stored in ULDs immediately.”

Vipan Jain, COO, Cargo Service Center

Truck Docking is one of the major reasons

Comparison of air cargo infrastructure operations in India with global best practices gets a major setback when it comes to truck docking. The floor area at the truck dock is the first entry point for offloading the cargo before shifting for clearance. According to a few recent reports revealed from the users of cargo terminals indicate that dwell time for trucks waiting outside the Air Cargo Complex ranges from 8 to 12 hours in one of the major gateway airports during peak seasons.

It is also observed that export cargo vehicles are not offloaded due to lack of adequate space availability. The limited number of truck docking bays for imports also is said to severely limit the ability of the cargo terminal operator to clear the cargo on time resulting in delay and accumulating a daily backlog of undelivered cargo. This in turns becomes an obstacle for smooth cargo movement thus affecting the average dwell time of cargo at airport terminals.

In recent times, cargo traffic has steadily increased. While carriers are getting larger and types of goods being transported are varying, bigger carriers are built and more means of transportation have joined terminals, and thus more and more times of arrival will continue to coincide.  Similarly, from an international perspective, it can be said that airports whose capacities do not meet these changes in demand in terms of infrastructure and services will eventually lose their competitiveness in goods transport.

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