Ashish S Pednekar, President, BCHAA

The Brihanmumbai Custom House Agents’ Association, popularly known as BCHAA has just turned 80 years old. At this interesting juncture, in a one-to-one with Ramprasad, Editor-in-Chief, Maritime Gateway, Ashish S Pednekar, President of the body shares his vision to focus more on training of CHAs and make them tech savvy

Q What are the objectives of BCHAA today and what are your future plans?

 BCHAA is a 80 years old institution. It was established prior to India’s independence and has been a role model for the entire Customs and broker fraternity. Since Mumbai is one of the major indirect tax contributor, hence many issues have been brought to the notice of ministries of Finance, Shipping and Aviation by the association. The ministries have taken a serious note of them and have ensured the implementation is done in a very smooth manner. Since we work on the ground level and our members face many day to day issues, our inputs are taken very seriously.

Over the years the association has grown from 500 members to 1,800 members. In recent times, the government has come out with many new initiatives like ‘Make in India,’ which we have always supported as it will help to the growth of business for the ports. JNPT being a premium port moves 35 per cent of containerised cargo in the country. We have suggested few infrastructure issues to the Ministry of Shipping and the Minister has been kind enough to take our suggestions seriously as a result the fourth terminal is being constructed at JNPT and the business will also increase with it. We have also brought to the notice of the authorities at Mumbai Port and JNPT about the issue of increase in cost.

Even though we operate in a very friendly manner, but when we notice an issue in operations be it with the shipping lines or the Customs, we candidly bring it to the notice of concerned authorities. We feel that we have a more important role to play in the coming years, so we are putting a lot of thrust on education and capacity building of our members and staff. Now that the government is taking more initiatives for trade facilitation and ‘ease of doing business,’ they have sought our suggestions as well. Now we are also part of the National Customs Clearance Facilitation Committee.

Q How is your relation with other stakeholders like shipping lines?

We maintain a very cordial relation with shipping lines, but some of the issues with regard to shipping like the nomination charges are detrimental to the trade. So we bring out such issues. We also meet other industry bodies such as CSLA and MANSA to sort out the issues.

Q What are the major challenges Customs House Agents face now-adays?

The first challenge is that our role is changing and we need to bring in more technology into our operations. Secondly, we are under paid because the hard work put in by Customs brokers is enormous, however it has never got the recognition it deserves from the exim community in terms of the payments made. The time has come people need to realise the role played by the Customs broker.

 We are trying to educate our members and staff to make them more tech-savvy. We have been in discussion with technology solution providers to figure out how we can improve our competence using technology. In this regard we have also signed a MoU with Kale Logistics. Another issue is that sometimes some business houses do not clear the dues payable to one Customs broker and they move to another broker. So we are trying to bring in a procedure wherein if a business migrates from one Customs broker to another then it should obtain a no objection certificate.

How is your relationship with other Customs house associations across the country?

 We maintain an excellent relationship with other Customs broker chapters in the country. Whatever public notices are issued in JNPT, we share with them. I am also the Chairman Elect of the National Federation. So I will be taking over as Chairman in 2018. We have got three segments: micro, MSME and large. So we also support the micro and MSME and make sure that they interact and help each other.

As the president of BCHAA what is your agenda?

 I plan to have a proper training centre for the association where we can train our staff. This will help to improve the quality of work done by our members.