Monday, January 13, 2020


Port and shipping are derivatives of international trade flows which heavily depend on multimodal transport system to cater to the customer requirements. They are by nature unstable industries and hence crisis is inevitable. Port crises could occur due to various physical or business originated causes. The challenge is to identify the crisis and manage it in the first place; often this judgment in the face of an emergency is what could lead a port to success or failure.

1.      Port industry Crises: Major causes of crises are:
1.1.   External or Environmental reasons: Phenomena’s like Hurricanes, earth quakes, tsunami , floods , terrorist attacks , cyber attacks etc
1.2.   Accidents: Collisions, oil spills, structural damages, hazardous cargo handling issues- explosions and gas leakages, man equipment interface issues – crane failure, vehicle accidents within and outside port premises.
1.3.   Political & Economy related causes: Trade issues, Chokepoints / blockades and increased tensions in a region cause business loss and market share. Similarly emergence of new economies cause shift in global trade routes which force some sea ports out of business and increased business cause congestion in some other ports.
1.4.   Business related issues: inter port & inter terminal competitions, increasing container ship sizes demand for costly investments; merger/takeover/alliances of shipping lines – leave one hub port and select another one.

2.      Crisis management: the process of identifying the source and addressing it effectively is a challenge and such a situation is indeed a testing field for managerial and leadership talents within the organization.
2.1.   Take measures to prevent the crisis:  Consider all possible threatening situations, events or processes and formulate a contingency plan. Introduce a 'signal' detecting mechanism which would ring a warning bell to alert a possible crisis.
2.2.   Be ready with a crisis management team to provide a holistic view of the vulnerabilities of the organization and to address the tactical issues of the crisis. The team need to be refreshed periodically to bring in new employees into the system. Also, a public opinion tracking system would be useful to identify concerns outside the port premises.
2.3.   Identify and accept the crisis:  Due to the “crisis proof” mentality often the crisis signals get ignored. Constituting a consulting team with inside and outside personals would help to get multiple perspectives on warning signals and identify crisis at an early stage itself.
2.4.   Ensure honest and quick information flow across the organization and to the concerned stake holders. This will help to build trust and confidence among all.
2.5.   Resolve the crisis:  take immediate decisions to turn around the intensity and also to prevent expansion to other unaffected sections. 

3.      Crisis accelerate changes: Give up outdated perceptions and processes, re-asses the needs, listen to employees and other stakeholders, organise proper training/education/mock drills and formulate a simple and uptodate crisis management process which clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of all concerned.A well-managed crisis generally develops a sense of togetherness among the employees which normally last for a longer period.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Slip Sheets Vs Pallets: Cost saving benefits

Slip sheets are now replacing pallets for better space utilisation within the container and also to reduce transportation cost. 

The most popular form of unitisation is palletisation. By palletising the cargo gets protected from loss or damage during handling and transportation. Also, there is considerable reduction in time and labour required for stuffing/de-stuffing containers.  

The drawback is that, pallets reduce the space utilization in the marine containers. The pallets alone could utilize 10% of the space and also the clearing height required to be considered. This could further reduce the space utilization and as a consequence, the transportation cost could go up to an extent of 15-30%.

A viable solution to this issue is the usage of SLIP SHEET. It is a thin pallet-sized sheet made of plastic, heavy laminated kraft paper board, or corrugated fiber board. The thickness of the slip sheet is approximately 2 centimetres only.  They increase the loading space inside the containe and the handling is easy and fastHowever, for handling slip sheets, the fork lift requires a special attachment. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Blockchain technology solutions in shipping and logistics industry.

Blockchain is the new “buzzword” floating around the shipping and logistics industry. News about performing successful test runs of blockchain technology based solutions on various live shipments by consortium of maritime,IT and logistics industry giants like ‘Maersk,Agility,IBM’  , ‘PIL,PSA,IBM’, ‘AB InBev, Accenture, APL, Kuehne + Nagel and a European customs organization’ have been appearing in the digital media for  a while now. They claim that this technology eliminates the need for printed shipping documents and saves hundreds of million dollars annually.

Is blockchain a new internet? How does it work?  What is the benefit for the shipping and logistics industry? Will it be a threat to forwarders and CHAs?  This paper is trying to provide brief answers to these questions. To read the full paper visit

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Maritime Zones under the UNCLOS

United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) is recognized as one of the universal legal documents on the seas. UNCLOS (III) contains provisions to recognize the maritime zones which shall be established by coastal states. 
Maritime Zones

Internal Waters: waters on the landward side of normal baseline(low-water line along the coast)

The territorial sea: area extending from internal waters to the seaward side, usually a width of 12 nautical miles (can be less or more)

The contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles from baseline from which the territorial sea is measured,  aimed at preventing violation of laws and regulations within its territory.

The Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) / Continental Shelf :  sea belt extending up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline.

The high seas: all part of sea excluding EEZ, Contiguous & territorial sea.

The rights of Coastal states on zones

UNCLOS also states the rights and obligations of the states on managing and governing their activities including protection and preservation of natural resources in the respective zones.

Internal Waters : The coastal state exercises full sovereignty over its internal waters, and foreign ships while in this water is to observe the laws and regulations of this state .

The territorial sea:  rights to enforce laws relating to safe navigation and pollution, entitled to enforce international laws.

The contiguous zone:    a coastal state has its rights in a contiguous zone to defend its interests by stopping foreign ship supposed to be an offender in order to search, inspect or punish the offenders against its laws and regulations.

The Exclusive Economic Zone:   ownership of economic resources, control on pollution and prevention rights.  3rd party enjoy freedom of navigation, cable/pipeline laying etc.

The high seas:  open to all states, vessels can proceed without interference from other ships.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The “Floating Metro”: Kochi Water Metro Project

Kochi Water Metro is an integrated water transport project in Greater Kochi region proposed by Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) under Unified Metro Transport Authority( UMTA, Kochi) to achieve synergy between the land and water modes. This project plans to connect islands situated closer to the mainland by way of sophisticated boats. Kochi will be among the few cities in Asia and the first city in the country to have water connectivity as a feeder service to the metro. 

                                   Source : KMRL

The water metro is expected to extended the “metro facility” to another 76 kms by connecting 10 islands around Kochi by way of modern sophisticated passenger boats. About 16 routes are identified and it is estimated that 38 jetties and 78 boats would be required to make the project operational.

                            Source : KMRL

Total cost estimated for the project is INR 819 crores. The German funding agency, Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW) is supporting KMRL with a loan of EUR 85-million  (around INR 597 crore) and the French funding agency, Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), offers the technical support for the reforms.  The project is expected to be operational from April 2018. 

                                          Source : KMRL

Impact on islands

As the bridge road connections between the Kochi city and islands becoming increasingly congested and in a constant state of poor repair, the demand for a revival of the much cheaper water mode has been rapidly increasing. The efficiency, reliability and mobility offered by the proposed water metro system will have a direct impact on island communities.   

Along with the connecting jetties the rural roads also will be developed. Feeder services such as mini buses and auto rickshaws would ensure connectivity to all nook and corners of the islands. This will dramatically improve the overall transport facilities and also would significantly enhance the islanders access to the urban facilities in the mainland.

Source :

These infrastructure development plans surely would serve as a catalyst for the overall economic growth of the islands around Kochi. The proposed commercial complexes in the jetties would enhance the job and self-employment opportunities of the islanders.   Once the project gets successfully implemented the now sleepy islands would turn in to bustling haven of commerce and ecotourism.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Regulatory role of Port State Control

Maritime regulations are required to ensure that shipping companies operate within the same standards of safety and environmental responsibility as applicable to companies operating on land.

Who are the regulators?

The maritime regulators who are responsible to formulate and implement the regulations are UN - IMO to regulate on matters related to ship safety, pollution prevention and security and ILO is responsible for laws governing the people on board the ship, the classification societies (the technical advisors) and the maritime states.  

Maritime states have two regulatory roles to play - one as Flag State who has governing power on its own flag ships and the second one as Coastal State, who has powers to enforce international law related to safe navigation and prevention of pollution on ships in its territorial waters.

More and more of ships were getting registered under the flag of convenience due to the commercially favourable terms of registration. Some of the flag states were not enforcing international maritime regulations on its own flag ships and this gave way to the Port State control movement.

UNCLOS 1982 allows coastal states to legislate for the “good conduct” of ships in their territorial seas. Using these rights to enforce international regulations in its territorial waters, the coastal states initiated the port state control movement.

This movement started in Europe in 1978 to ensure that foreign merchant ships calling at their ports comply with the relevant maritime conventions which was got formalized in 1982 by signing Paris MoU.  Ships may be subject to port state control inspection while at port or proceeding to a port to identify deficiencies in ships, its equipment or its crew.

Port State Control Inspection

The port state control maritime government uses its maritime agency (eg: Mercantile Marine Department) to undertake the inspection on ships which are in their territorial waters. The maritime agency employs professionally qualified maritime personnel such as marine surveyors/ superintendents etc to carry out the required inspections.

The port state control inspection normally has three parts: General external inspection of the ship, a check of certificates and ‘Walk around’ to inspect the condition of exposed decks, cargo handling gear, navigation and radio equipment, life-saving appliances, fire - fighting arrangements, machinery spaces, pollution prevention equipment, living and working conditions.

A detention order will be made in case of serious deficiencies. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to identify the stowage position of a container on board a ship?

Each container on board a container ship has a stowage position. Bay plan (stowage plan) is a diagram used for stowage planning (ship loading). It shows the cross section of a ship, with the stowage positions of each container.

A unique six digit number is allocated for every such positions, eg:- 020584. This number indicates on which Bay , on which Row at what height (tier) the container is positioned, 02 (Bay)/05(Row)/84(tier) on board the ship.

The Bay

A bay on a ship can be compared to a slice on a loaf of bread. Each bay is given a 2 digit number, 0dd numbers (01,03,05..) for 20’ bays and even (02,04,06..) numbers for 40’ bays. The number increases form bow to stern. The first 2 digits on the stowage position indicates the bay and it identifies the position of the container (Lengthwise), fore , mid and aft, on the ship.

The Row

The 3rd and 4th digits on the stowage position indicate the row in which the container is stowed. It identifies the position of the container left to right (width wise) on the ship. Starting from centreline of the ship , rows to the right (starboard) have odd numbers and rows to the left (port) have even numbers. For the ships which have even number of rows in total (15,17,19..), the centre row is numbered “00”.

The Tier (height)

The bay and row position indicates whether the container is towards bow or stern and whether it is positioned towards left (portside) or right (starboard side) on the ship.  The tier indicates at what height the container is stowed. Containers stacked at the bottom of ships are numbered 02, which grows upwards 04,06,08.., in the under deck stack. Whereas numbering on deck starts from 82 for containers stacked on the hatch cover and the numbers grow upwards , 84,86,88…for on deck stacking.

So , stowage position 020584 indicates that the container is on a 40’ bay near the bow , 3rd row towards right (starboard) , second tier on deck.