With passenger flights being completely suspended during the nationwide lockdown, the air cargo section of Mumbai Customs has been steadily working, to mobilise and supply essential commodities across India and the rest of the world. V Rama Mathew, Chief Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai Zone--III informs The Free Press Journal's Sweety Adimulam that they have been coordinating with all stakeholders and observing high safety standards while carrying on operations 24x7 in this crisis, clearing import and export consignments.
Air cargo is playing a crucial role in this lockdown, providing uninterrupted supply of essential items. How are day-to-day activities being taken care of?
Customs has put in place a 24x7 work environment, albeit with reduced officer deployment, further encouraging electronic work processes, and proactively taking together all stakeholders. We have taken various measures, along with stakeholders, to reduce manpower deployment, maintain higher levels of hygiene and health and enforce social distancing norms, etc.
On an average, how many air cargoes get cleared daily?
We are receiving 8-15 flights every day. But these are only freight carriers, unlike during normal times, when close to 100 flights brought in imports. So, there is no benchmark for easy comparison. To put it simply, import and export activities are at 1/4th to 1/3rd of the pre-lockdown levels.
Have there been times in this lockdown when an immediate decision on cargo flights, for supply of medicines or other healthcare items or agricultural goods was needed? How did you handle the situation?
Customs is regularly clearing import consignments of emergency medical kits, equipment, not just for Mumbai for other states as well. We have also cleared some crucial export consignments to assist other countries grappling with the pandemic, keeping in view the government’s regulatory framework sacrosanct. How is the work being disseminated? What safety measures are in place to maintain social distancing?
As mentioned earlier, we are providing 24x7 services, albeit with reduced deployment of manpower, which is consistent with the significantly reduced volume of international trade through Mumbai air cargo complex.