It is likely that India will develop dedicated midnight freight corridors for better management of freight into ports and airports, as part of the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) that draws out steps to improve India’s ease of doing business ranking globally.
As per the action plan, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the National Highway Authority of India will work on the project along with state governments as it would require land use approvals.
The National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP)
The formulation of the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan 2017-2020 was an early measure by the Government of India to act as an active facilitator of trade. It was envisioned to be a live document which contained 96 specific measures assigned to stakeholders with indicative timelines for implementation.
The NTFAP has kept the timeline for execution at three years, which includes speeding up construction of the Maduravoyal Elevated Corridor in Chennai that has been stalled for many years.
The action plan, which will span over three years till 2023 and will be executed by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, also calls for setting up a National Air Cargo Community System that will facilitate advance slot booking and hence boost efficiency of processing airfreight shipments.
The system will include radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging of trucks and unit load device or freight loading machines used at airports, to be implemented over a period of six to 18 months. Electronic checking of tags will optimise gate operations and cut down turnaround time of vehicles.
An enhanced ‘single window’ interface for all government approvals and clearances has also been proposed. This will include digital preference certificate of origin for export to countries with which India has trade agreements, digital sharing of shipping bill automatically for export shipments and integration with Directorate General of Foreign Trade’s system.
The action plan also aims to amend Advance Ruling Rules to operationalise the decentralised architecture of Authority for Advance Rulings.
The CBIC will have to issue a notification to include tariff rate quotas, valuation and exemption and any other area as a subject for advance rulings, it specified. Change in the customs brokers licensing regulations to enable appeal and review, by February 2022, has also been planned.
The plan also proposes to mandate provisional assessment as it aims to de-link release of cargo from duty payments, taxes, fees or other charges.
“Explore feasibility of implementing a financial instrument for the purpose of revenue protection in order to expedite clearance of goods wherein the amount of guarantee shall not be higher than the amount that would be required to ensure the payment of the dues,” the action plan specifies.
Experts said that the steps prescribed in the plan alongside adoption of technology tools are likely to push India further up the ease of doing business rankings. The country aims to break into the top 50 from 63 in 2019.
India is looking to reduce release time of exports of air cargo to 12 hours and of sea cargo to within 24 hours, by 2023. Imports of air cargo are aimed to be cleared within a day and that coming by sea will be cleared within 48 hours.