Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) organised a Logistics Conclave 2023 on Friday November 10, at the Park Hotel.
The programme was titled ‘Evolving Contours of Logistics’. Dr Saumitra Mohan (IAS) Principal Secretary, Transport Department, Government of West Bengal inaugurated the Conclave. Other speakers were Braithwaite & Co. Ltd CMD, Shri Yatish Kumar, who is also holding the position of Chief Workshop Manager in Liluah Workshop and Shri Adika Ratna Seakhar, CMD, Balamer Lawrie & Co. Ltd. Shri Lavesh Poddar, Chairman, Council on Transport, Shipping & Logistics presided over the function.
Shri Mohan said, a World Bank fund is being utilised to float jetties along the Ganga from Nurpur in South 24 Parganas to Tribein in Hooghly. These jetties can be utilised for the proposed roro services which can carry trucks and buses across the river. This can shorten roadway distances enabling bringing down logistics cost. “We are identifying suitable locations to start roro services,” Mohan said.
In fact, MCCI proposed starting roro services on which the state government has started acting. However, Mohan on the sidelines of the conclave told the media that West Bengal government will be investing Rs 5000 crore in the next three years for developing waterways and surface transport. He said government was attaching prime importance to e-mobility. “It wants to launch 1200 e-buses but there are obstacles due to some litigations. At present, 100 e-buses are operating in the state,” Mohan said.
Shri Kumar emphasized on the railways, transport and the shipping ministries to come under one umbrella and operate for a seamless logistics movement. He said at present PM-Gatishakti headed by the Union Minister of Railways Shri Ashwani Kumar was one such umbrella which has brought in the three ministries together. But, he emphasized on creating a single ministry instead of three.
Speaking about Braithwaite, Kumar said it was bringing about big changes in wagon designs and roro designs to accommodate more goods and even vehicles like cars. “We have been copying the American container and wagon models. Containers in the US are of 8.6 feet in height, but India needs larger containers. We are making containers of 12.6 feet. DFC has introduced dwarf containers and steel containers are being manufactured, which will make loads lighter,” he said.
However, he said that India’s current logistics performance index was 38 and it was a considerably good performance among 133 countries. “But there is little alignment between policy and investment for which the logistics sector was unable see the desired impact,” Kumar said.
Shri Ratna Sekhar said that artificial intelligence will become the driving force of warehouses which are of crucial importance to the logistics sector. Balmer & Lawrie has created a chain of cold storages in Hyderabad, Bangalore and other places in the country and has been handling agricultural products more efficiently that ever before. This would enable increasing agricultural exports from India and prevent perishing of agricultural goods.
Shri Poddar said, India’s freight movement is heavily skewed toward road transportation, which moves 66% of cargo in ton-kms. . This is followed by rail 31%, shipping 3% and air 1%. But the Centre and the state governments are working towards removing this unevenness and have been trying to increase the share of freight transportation for railways and waterways as well. Increasing freight transportation through Railways would mean track expansion to accommodate more number of goods trains and changing the designs and configurations of the wagons so that railways can carry larger parcel size and more bulk cargo at one go.
He asked the strategy taken to create a chain of warehouses, cold chains and container depots.
He said shipping and logistics industry in India is shifting to align with the evolving business landscape. Improved infrastructure, increased emphasis on digitalization and a heightened focus on sustainable logistics are driving this shift. Today SMP is not only crucial for sea borne cargo but inland waterways as well. Ports have also become crucial to coastal shipping. However, infrastructure and policy bottlenecks will have to be removed if the shipping and the logistic sector has to grow, Poddar said.
Shri NImish Saraf, Co Chairman, Council on Transport , shipping and Logistics proposed the vote of thanks