Recently, at an event to appreciate its stakeholders, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC); Mr Hassan Bello informed the gathering that the Council would soon introduce Cargo Tracking And Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS), popularly called Cargo Tracking Note (CTN).
According to Bello, the Cargo Tracking and Advanced Cargo Information System is a trade facilitation system which involves advance electronic transmission of cargo manifest ahead of the ship’s arrival.
He told the stakeholders, which included the organised private sector, shippers, terminal operators and freight forwarders, among others that, “Cargo tracking and advanced cargo information system is a trade facilitation system which was introduced by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and is being supported by the Nigeria Customs Service’’.
He added that, more importantly, the system ‘’is used to block revenue leakages at the ports. It enables customs to place the correct duty on every cargo’’, even as he stated that ‘’we wouldn’t be having all these smuggling if we have the advanced cargo information system’’.
First introduced in 2015 under the name Cargo Tracking Note, it was largely misunderstood; little wonder that is was suspended by the Council.Prior to taking custody of the CTN, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had superintended it, albeit under controversial circumstances.
The CTN was first introduced in December 2009 by the NPA and enforcement flagged-off in January, 2010.
The NPA experience was so bad that, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was called in, and it took possession of proceeds of the CTN, which the NPA would have been entitled to.
Of course, most shippers and shipping lines have always been opposed to CTN or ACIS (as it is now called). In the two previous experiences, with the NPA and then NSC, their complaint was mainly with the additional cost that it would impose on consignees.
If in 2010, the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN), the organised private sector, freight forwarders kicked against the CTN, the same reasons may not be tenable in 2017.
In recent times, there has been influx of illegal arms into the country. An effective ACIS would stop this.
Introducing the ACIS will also help in revenue blockage and assist the Nigeria Customs Service in its revenue collection.
Generally, the benefit of the ACIS will include: the control of freight charges; ability to access advance information on all cargoes which made actual advance billing possible; introduction of one point payment system that reduced time and energy in clearing goods, thereby making a less-than-24 hour clearing possible.
Other advantages include accessibility to real time on line central information that makes statistics for decision making possible on a real time basis rather than historical basis; having information on cargo before it is even on the vessel; improvement on the security of port infrastructure, vessels and personnel;
No doubt, it is the Nigerian importing community that will have to comply, so they are the ones that the Nigerian Shippers Council will have to parley with and make to see reasons.
If for nothing at all, the fact that the ACIS will attack importation of illegal arms from source, aid revenue generation and reduce cargo clearance time makes it an imperative.
With the ACIS, it may no longer be possible for unscrupulous shipper, shipping agent and shipping line to tamper with ship’s manifests. This is a misdemeanor that was confirmed by the Comptroller General of Customs; Col Hameed Ali (rtd) recently when he spoke about how the alleged importers of arms were able to circumvent the process. He disclosed that the ship’s manifest was tampered with in Morocco enroute Nigeria from Turkey.
Now that all appears set for the reintroduction of CTN, albeit in the name of ACIS under the superintendence of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, it is expected that, lessons have been learnt and previous areas of pitfalls are guided against.
One area of likely pitfall is the buy-in of stakeholders, especially the shipping lines/agents and freight forwarders. The other area is the cost of administering the ACIS. If it will mean additional cost, it has to be negligible.
Being the economic regulator, it is our belief that the Shippers’ Council has built sufficient goodwill to enable it to see this through, it also must have learnt from previous experiences.