Only Federal Executive Council can approve Cargo Tracking Note

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) disclosed recently that it planned to reintroduce the controversial Cargo Tracking Note (CTN).

CTN was first introduced in Nigeria on December 9, 2009 by the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The scheme was under the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but was administered by a private firm, Transport and Ports Management Systems Ltd (TPMS) Antaser.

Before its initial introduction, there were assurances that the scheme would not attract additional charges to shippers, namely importers and exporters, but it soon dawned on all that the assertion was far from the truth. CTN attracted various sums ranging from a minimum of 150 Euros to as much as 450 Euros depending on the type and size of cargo.

Interestingly, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council joined other maritime industry stakeholders to condemn the implementation of the controversial scheme at the time.

On November 9, 2011 – after much agitation and complaints by industry stakeholders – the scheme was brought to an abrupt end.

“Please, be informed that Mr. President has approved the abolition of Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) for all shipments into and out of Nigerian seaports with immediate effect.

“In essence, no shipping line is authorized to demand for Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) as a condition for cargo shipment to Nigeria. This directive takes effect this day, 9th of November 2011 and all shipping lines operating in Nigeria are to adhere strictly and ensure compliance,” the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) stated in a terse statement.

It is clear from the above that it took the powers of the President and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to introduce the Cargo Tracking Note. The question that arises therefore is; can the Nigerian Shippers’ Council – an agency of the Federal Government – reintroduce a scheme abolished by the nation’s highest authority? The answer is a definite no.

There have also been worries about the cost implication of the CTN.

Frank Ojadi, a renowned lecturer at the Lagos Business School (LBS), Pan-Atlantic University, has said that the planned reintroduction of the controversial CTN will not only attract charges, but also increase the cost of doing business at the port.

Ojadi, who is the Head, Operations Management Department of LBS with specialisation in transport logistics, said his research of Nigerian ports, which spanned a period of five years, has shown that CTN has logistics implication that attract charges, which shows that it would not be at zero cost to shippers as argued by NSC.

Ojadi insisted that CTN will not be able to check under-declaration or corruption at the port as claimed by the NSC, stating that that the Nigeria Customs Service has the means of monitoring the risks associated with imports into the country.

“Curiously NSC has been silent on who bears the cost of this scheme. Economic regulation of port operations does not cover issues of this nature. This appears to be another taxation, which will lead to increase in the cost of doing business in Nigeria,” he explained.

Ojadi, who explained that CTN cannot be issued without the physical inspection of cargo from the port of origin also affirmed that NSC will have to appoint agents to carry out this function in all ports of origin, where Nigerians import from and this must have cost implication.

“Clean Reports of Inspection (CRI) were issued at foreign ports by appointed agents during the pre-shipment inspection era and CTN will not be different. The organisation to issue the CTN has to be present at the ports of origin, which are scattered all over the world. Who will pay for this service? Or are we going to restrict all imports to Nigeria to specific ports abroad?” questioned the LBS don.

Ojadi also tasked the NSC to come clean on the modalities for issuing the CTN before shipment is done.

“If you are aiming to stop trade fraud, then you must ensure that all imports follow the Form M procedure and prosecute all cases of concealment and/or false declaration of imports,” he said.

Another school of thought believes that CTN, also known as Bordereau de Suivi Cargaison (BSC) or Loading Certificate, taunted to be a marine document that contains information relating to the cargo and its movement between ports, is nothing but a fraudulent scheme foisted on the shippers of third world countries simply to generate revenue.

No known developed maritime nation of the world implements the scheme.

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council must therefore put the planned reintroduction of this scheme on hold until it is thoroughly and objectively discussed by the incoming Federal Executive Council as only the Council or President Muhammadu Buhari reserve the powers to approve its reintroduction.


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