For the umpteenth time, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) gave assurances that the highly-controversial International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), will soon be implemented in Nigeria. In fact, its CEO; Mr Pius Ukeyima Akutah, said specifically that it will be operational by the second quarter of this year.
He said this during his recent familiarization visit to Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and Port and Cargo Handling Services Terminals, both in Lagos.
Akutah revealed that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set for the Council by President Bola Tinubu initially projected to achieve CTN implementation by the third quarter of 2024. However, he informed that NSC is actively engaged in collaboration with stakeholders to expedite the process, aiming for the CTN to be fully operational by the second quarter of 2024.
“Based on the KPIs of the Shippers Council given by President Tinubu, the NSC is going to achieve the implementation of ICTN by the third quarter of 2024 but we are looking at an earlier date as we are working with the stakeholders to know how we can achieve that by second quarter of 2024. Therefore by then, we should have the cargo tracking note,” Akutah said.
We recall that Akutah’s predecessor in office; Mr Emmanuel Jime had in December 2021, during his first media chat, given the same assurance that the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) will be re-introduced in a matter of weeks!
He had told a select number of senior journalists that, time was ripe for the reintroduction of the ICTN, even as he assured that, the ICTN, which was once operated in the Nigerian Ports Authority would be at very minimal cost.
Jime also disclosed that the Council was done with identifying the handlers of the ICTN. “Time has now come for the full implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note, we have so progressed with this particular effort that the promoters of this platform have already been identified, due diligence has also been conducted, we are now at the stage where we will in a few weeks from now announce the winner of that particular allotment and this ultimately begins the commencement of the implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note”, he stated.
He left office, and he was not able to accomplish the dream of implementing the ICTN, despite the inherent benefits.
We also recall that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had at the on-set of ICTN collection in January 2010, highlighted the benefit its to 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 benefits 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; certification of ports by the USA and European nations and the Green Status given to port infrastructure, vessel; and accruable value added benefits to the national economy.
The International Cargo Tracking Note was first initiated by the US Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, as a preventive security measure.
The UN Security Council later mandated the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to adopt it as a security framework for enhancing the protection of international shipping and prevention of movement of dangerous cargoes.
According to the IMO, when implemented by countries, the ICTN will allow governments to monitor incoming and outgoing ships through real time generation of advance information on ships involved in international voyages.
The Federal Executive Council of Nigeria, had at its session on December 9th, 2009 given due approval to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to operate the controversial Cargo Tracking Note (CTN).
But, the approval was later cancelled to enable a review. In 2012, another approval was given, but with emphasis on cost consideration.
At the onset of CTN, the sole authorised representative was Transport and Ports Management System (TPMS) Ltd (TPMS Antaser Afrique).
After the contract with the TPMS was cancelled and the Nigerian Ports Authority was directed to hands- off the ICTN superintendence, the Federal Government later directed the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to handle the project leading to its reintroduction in 2015, but this was later suspended again owing to unresolved technical hitches.
Since then, taking custody of the ICTN scheme has been a battle between both the NPA and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. However, it is taking too long to take the crown. Every successive CEO since Barrister Hassan Bello has dangled the carrot of ICTN, but they have not been able to implement it.
We advise that the Council should watch out for the issues that truncated previous attempts at introducing the scheme. Such issues include – ambiguity about the cost implication to importers, the agitation that ICTN will add to the already cumbersome process of cargo importation and delivery.
Going forward, we hope that the Shippers’ Council will be opened about details of the contract, including who is doing what. We urge this because we remember the issues that led to the suspension of the first attempt at the scheme.
We recall that the National Assembly kicked against it, because of lack of openness, especially about the financial implication of the scheme.
Allegations of massive corruption was one of the reasons that brought the scheme to an abrupt end in 2011.
The industry will be waiting to see if the current CEO is only just following the footsteps of his predecessor.
As a media outfit, we are more interested in the benefits inherent in the ICTN, and not so much about the politics and the intrigues that have dogged its ways for so many years. Our position is based on the fact that its benefits far outweigh whatever critics are playing up.