Customs authorities will clear exports consignments round-the-clock at major ports, including Mumbai and Paradeep, from July 15 onwards, a move likely to bring down the transaction costs of exporters facing a demand slowdown.

A trial run of 45 days will be conducted at the ports of Vishakhapatnam, Kolkata, Mundra, Okha, Sikka, Mangalore, JNPT, Mumbai, Paradeep, Gopalpur, Ennore and Chennai as a precursor to full implementation, the Revenue Department said.

A task force of the Commerce Department had recommended that customs operations should be made conducted on a 24x7 basis at 14 identified customs locations.

“This recommendation has been accepted by the government,” the Revenue Department said in a communication to the Chief Commissioners of Customs.

Sea shipments account for around 80 per cent of India’s trade with the outside world.

During the trial period, customs services would be extended round-the-clock to ensure delivery of export goods and imports under the risk management system (RMS), besides assessment and examination of import and export goods.

”... Based upon the success achieved subject to getting additional staff sanction and custodians, banks and other related agencies agreeing to provide necessary complementary services, a decision will be taken by the board to expand the services to other customs locations,” the letter said.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) Director-General Ajay Sahai said the move would help reduce transaction costs and curtail pilferage and wastage.

“Unlike airports, where customs clearance is fast, the waiting period in the country’s sea ports is around 2-3 days,” he said. Quoting World Bank data, he said the cost of exports goes up by 0.5 per cent for each additional day goods take to get customs clearance.

The government had recently approved creation of 475 new posts in various grades for the process of extending customs operations round-the-clock.

This was a part of the Ministry of Finance’s decision taken in 2007 to create 4,647 additional posts with a view to increase operational efficiency in various areas.

India’s exports were severely impacted due to the global demand slowdown and declined for 13 months from September, 2008. While exports have starting growing since November, 2009, the crisis in Europe remains a worry for exporters.