Mr. Alban Igwe is the Acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers (NIFFCB). He is a Maritime lawyer, Transport technocrat and the pioneer Director of Education and Research in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). In this interview with MMS Plus, he advances the discourse on the reinitiating of Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) in Nigeria.
Kenneth Jukpor writes…
As the Acting Secretary of the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Custom Brokers (NIFFCB), what is your take on the introduction of Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) in Nigeria?
Let me say by way of historical reflection that the CTN has some history from the European Union Customs Security programme and they have an advanced notification. The EU introduced this advanced notification in order to improve the security of the supply chain. They made it a mandatory regime which means that people must comply. It was such that as an importer or exporter of goods, you were mandated to comply with all the advanced notification rules. In particular, the references made to the EU, EU 1875 of 2006 and 312 of 2009 and 430 of 2010, companies are liable if they provide incorrect information in advance of both goods brought in or taken out of the community.
The Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) or the ECTN (Electronic Cargo Tracking Note), is a system for collecting documents and processing information, when exporting by sea in order to obtain prior information, to participate in security measures, resources planification, statistics, and more generally in order to participate in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) recommendations on trade facilitation and security.
The CTN is a very useful instrument especially now that we are in a terrorist regime as there is crisis all over the world today. We cannot afford to ignore anything that will enhance maritime security and beyond maritime we are looking at the supply chain security. The CTN has the potentials to reduce the entire time spent along the supply chain and this also reduces the hassle that various stakeholders have to pass through. Even anxiety can be a big problem by causing a lot delay but if we can attain a level of accuracy to predict by having a profile of every shipment, it expedites the way we handle things and the process enhances the turnover which brings immense benefits in business in general terms.
So we ought to know what CTN is, we ought to know the objectives of this CTN. The objective is to improve the security and safety of supply chain and help us see the profile of products we are bringing in. It will help us know the origin and destination of cargoes and help us know our enemies. Our enemies may be far away and stockpiling, with the CTN we are able to fish out these anomalies. I think the CTN’s re-initiative is a welcomed development.
What is the position of the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Custom Brokers (NIFFCB) towards this CTN initiative?
The Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Custom Brokers (NIFFCB) is the umbrella body coordinating the professional development of the industry’s stakeholders that is the freight forwarders and Custom Brokers. Majority of the people involved in the import and export process are freight forwarders and customs brokers, as a result we see ourselves as major stakeholders because we are here to provide the essential information that can enhance their proficiency and protect them as well. We have a major role to play in disseminating the right information, educating this group of people and ensuring they understand the whole process especially with new initiatives like the CTN.
Freight forwarders and custom brokers who represent importers and exporters can make the importers and exporters liable and the freight forwarders and custom brokers could also be liable in some cases when they become the principle agents. If this is the case, it means we are going to have a lot problem in our import and export business. Subsequently, if we don’t have a hassle free import and export scheme then the CTN that Nigeria Shippers Council is promoting, will be jeopardized. At the heart of NSC’s mandate is the promotion of Nigeria’s import and export business and then development of shipping business, so if the NSC does not do enough to carry these stakeholders along something will go wrong both in the short term and in the long term. The Council should note that every support given to these stakeholders must be ongoing until we have reached a stable CTN regime so I think we should not rest on our oars, because there is a lot more to do.
With regards to the CTN, we are looking at facilitating a round table very soon because we want these stakeholders that we are in charge of to be able to capture what the CTN is, the benefits and relevance. We see ourselves as the promoters of the values that this CTN is bringing. We would organize campaigns to facilitate the CTN, minimize the possible challenges and advise the advocate which is the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) on how to overcome some hurdles they haven’t thought about to make sure we have a smooth sail as far as the CTN is concerned. There are more trainings, platforms, roundtables, meetings, complaints to analyze before we can rest.
Some stakeholders and organization like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have openly kicked against the Cargo Tracking Notes for several reasons. Is the Nigerian Shippers Council is on track with regards to the timing of the CTN?
After the events of 11 September 2001, countries across the world increased the prerequisite measures and processes for cargo data even to the point of checking customs valuations of goods and freight rates, in order to strengthen the prior identification of checks, port security and fraud reduction related to value, while facilitating trade by improving import flows.
Like the shipping act in the USA this was the context in which the ECTN was born, as it simultaneously strengthened security, reduced fraud, and facilitated trade. The ECTN is in line with the spirit of WTO’s trade facilitation, because of the almost instantaneous transmission of data and documents to customs and port authorities of the destination country, well before the arrival of the vessel.
So far, I think the Nigerian Shippers Council has started well to engage a number of stakeholders, although, there is more work to be done to ensure that this CTN initiative succeeds this time. The fact that the system failed and was cancelled five years ago should give the Shippers Council some warning signs. Shippers Council should put all diligence to ensure that this noble cause of the CTN is achieved. I can say it is a noble cause because I have done some research, read and studied the CTN. We must make sure we douse every contrary opinion with evidence and this means we must make sure we do in-depth research and ensuring the CTN is electronic and educating the stakeholders. The freight forwarders and custom brokers must be carried along sufficiently so that we can have a smooth sail. I think the NSC is on track and with regards to the timing; there is no better time to reinitiate the CTN than now.
Several shipping line have keyed into the Cargo Tracking Note initiative just to be compliant to the Nigerian Shippers Council, but what are the prospects and benefits of the CTN?
In accordance with the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards for international cooperation between its member states for security of ships and port facilities, the “ISPS” code was introduced and is now of global maritime security policies. The second obligation of the new provision implies on the part of each the signatory countries; that in the context of international maritime cooperation, which consists of organizing data processing on all shipments and all vessels departing to a final destination. This is where the ECTN comes in, at the destination, the ECTN is used to initiate an analysis of the cargo, define a security level for vessels prior to their arrival, increase the protection of ports against a terrorist attack and be able to improve the Customs valuation of the goods and freight.
The efficacy of CTN depends on the integrity of freight technologies and the entire system. The benefits of the CTN include Asset Tracking, On Board Status monitoring, Gateway Facilitation, Freight Status information, Network Status information, etc. It is paramount that the Nigerian Shippers Council ensures a degree of collaboration amongst key stakeholders such as Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Ports Authority, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Nigeria Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Import and Export community as well as freight forwarders to effectively implement the CTN. The NIFFCB will be positively disposed to facilitating a round table early this year towards achieving this noble objective.
What is your last word of advice for the Nigerian Shippers Council and other stakeholders in line with the Cargo Tracking Notes?
CTN should not be politicized because it is a critical step in securing Nigeria’s economy. I also advocate for continuous enlightenment of the critical stakeholders in the industry as this remains crucial to the overall success of the initiative. Research along this line is apt and ripe for exploitation and the Shippers Council should collaborate with internal and external stakeholders.
What the CTN stands for in Nigeria is a secure supply chain, theft prevention, reduction in insurance, faster clearance of goods, less screening, less documentation, better risk proofing and it also represents a proactive anti-terrorism paradigm. In a nutshell, the CTN brings the all the critical stakeholders to check.