Technical glitch leads to chaos for airport cargo

In a huge blow to traders this festive season, Mumbai Airport Cargo could not operate for about 60 hours due to a malfunction in the server, directly affecting export and import trade at this crucial time. The department generates over Rs 700 crore towards monthly revenue for the exchequer.

Mumbai Airport cargo
Stalled: Trucks and tempos loaded with goods have been stalled at the Mumbai Airport cargo waiting for clearance. Pic/Omkar Gaokar

“Owing to a technical problem with the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system, which is responsible for processing export and import trade, operations at Mumbai Airport Cargo were severely affected. Some import consignments were manually cleared, but it was export that was the worst hit,” said George Joseph, president, Bombay Customs House Agents’ Association (BCCAA). “Since Mumbai Airport Cargo is a very important centre for both traders and Customs — as it generates huge revenue for the state repository — I suggest that a back-up system be put in place to ensure that business is not hurt by such malfunctions,” Joseph added.

President, Air Cargo Agents Association Of India (ACAAI), Bharat Thakkar, criticised the Customs department for failing to ensure that trade was not hit. “This is a gift that export and import traders had not expected for Diwali. Even if the system crashed, the Customs, which is the custodian of this trade, could have cleared the consignment manually. But it failed to deliver and came up with the excuse that the service provider cut the link,” he said.

Sources at Mumbai Airport Cargo added that the system error was reported on Thursday, but was repaired only on Saturday afternoon, which resulted in a backlog of over 1,200 tonnes of freight that was to be sent to various countries. “The cargo could not be loaded on aircraft owing to the EDI failure. The system was reinstated on Saturday, but because of the huge backlog and Sunday being a non-working day, trade is likely to get affected on Monday if Customs fails to extend the working hours,” an Airport Cargo official said.

Parag Borkar, additional commissioner in-charge, EDI, could not be contacted for a reaction, but senior Customs officials in Export and Import Division confirmed that despite the system being fixed, it would be a big challenge to clear the accumulated work.

This is not an isolated incident. On June 2, this newspaper reported (Exchequer to suffer Rs 100-crore loss over exchange rate goof-up) how Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) that issues revised exchange rates every month, failed to give out new numbers for the month, thereby holding up the multi-billion dollar daily export-import trade on June 1. Due to this, export and import submissions were rejected at all 106 centres across countries.

Rs 8,400 cr
Annual revenue generated by Mumbai Airport cargo

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