The client always expects the best services from his vessel agent as the agent is, in fact, his extended arm in the location the service is being provided. The normal agency services which includes Ship Husbanding, Crew Management, Customs Clearance etc. is no different in India as compared to other parts of the world. What differentiates the standard agency services from the one provided to Oil & Gas clients operating in the Indian offshore regions is the additional documentation requirements for vessels, crew and shipments deployed for the purpose of exploration and production.
In this context, Arya Offshore had won a contract to provide comprehensive agency services to M/s Seadrill who were, in turn, awarded a contract by Vedanta to deploy their rig-off Kakinada. Since Seadrill was re-entering Indian market after a gap of few years, it was important for us as agents, to advise the client and sort of handhold so as to ensure that the formalities required to be accomplished prior to the rig commencing its task is completed in the shortest period.
The Rig, as all mariners would appreciate, is a costly asset. The rig in question we understand is approximately USD 150 Million. Once the contract was signed between the two parties the events to unfold until the rig reaches its offshore location was explained and rehearsed over and over again. Our team at Kakinada was excited as it took up the challenge of ensuring that the mobilisation activity is conducted with clockwork precision in a copybook style. With all prearrival formalities completed, the Immigration / Customs and Naval inspection team at stand-by, the rig towed by a powerful tug entered into Kakinada port on 28th March 2018.
However, due to certain technical clarifications between the Operator (Vedanta) and the nodal Governmental Authority (Director General of Hydrocarbons), the documentation was delayed by a couple of days and the final documentation landed in our custody on 5th April 2018.
As is the case with all clients the hell breaks loose as soon as the documents reach the agent because from that time the expectation of the client is for the agent to perform wonders and complete the task in the shortest time frame.
The Operations Group was ready with parallel teams to ensure swift customs clearance of the rig (the other statutory clearances had been completed by then). Though many countries are of the belief that we still follow the old system of documentation in hard copies where the files move within the offices based-on the whims and fancies of the peons and file handlers, the truth is that our processes to quite an extent are on-line. This routine on-line submission became a challenge whilst filing the customs documentation, namely, Bill of Entry (BOE).
The Bill of Entry which was hitherto filed in Kakinada Customs Services Centre was now required to be filed by the agents through their terminals. Though our office has a seamless connectivity with a reasonable bandwidth, the documents could not be uploaded on a portal, namely E-Sanchet.
The minutes were ticking by and the tempers of the client were shooting skywards. It was past close of business hours and a loss of a day in filing the documents would have led the client poorer by approximately USD 70,000 – day rate of the charter hire.
Despite the setbacks, the team was not ready to give up till all avenues were exhausted. However, whilst considering various alternatives, one of the members contacted his counterpart in Chennai to consider exercising the option of remotely filing the documents on Arya Kakinada’s behalf. A step to an innovative solution. The Chennai team which was at standby after a few failed attempts managed to upload the documents. It took them a couple of hours to upload all the documents. On completion of uploads, the system generated the necessary Invoice Reference Number (IRN) and Business Registration Number (BNR) which were shared with Kakinada team for them to complete online submission of Bill of Entry. The remote take over from a different location was not only the first for our teams but also for Customs who appreciated the coordinated approach of two locations to accomplish a single task.
The end result may seem simple but was worth a challenge to the teams and the satisfaction they got on completion especially when the chips were down, speaks of the ingenuity and the determination of the team to complete a given task in a given time schedule.
Finally, the saga ended with the rig having completed all the formalities in time and sailed for its offshore location without any delays.