2 Replies Latest reply on Jul 3, 2018 11:13 AM by Jerry Rawlings Mbabali

    Electronic Cargo Tracking System has been fully implemented in East Africa

    Jerry Rawlings Mbabali

      The Command Centre of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System



      L'Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECT) est un système basé sur Internet qui permet de surveiller les marchandises en transit du point d'entrée à la sortie afin d'améliorer leur sécurité et de promouvoir des termes de l'échange équitables en éliminant le déchargement des marchandises non déclarées sur le marché est-africain . Financé par TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) à travers un contrat du Département du développement international du Royaume-Uni (DFID).

      Le système réduira le coût des affaires en réduisant le temps de transit, en améliorant la sécurité du fret et en aidant les commerçants à mieux prévoir l'arrivée des marchandises. Les retards de transport et le vol de marchandises figurent parmi les principales préoccupations des importateurs et des exportateurs qui ont été obligés de payer une forte couverture d'assurance pour les marchandises en transit, ce qui ajoute aux coûts déjà élevés de faire des affaires dans la région.



      The Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTs) is a web-based system used to monitor transit cargo from the point of entry to the exit in order to improve its safety and promote fair terms of trade by eliminating the offloading of undeclared goods on the East African market. This was project was funded by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) through a grant from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID).

      The system will reduce the cost of doing business by reducing transit time, enhancing cargo safety and helping traders to better predict arrival of goods. Transport delays and cargo theft are among the key concerns to importers and exporters who have been forced to pay high insurance cover for goods on transit, adding to the already high costs of doing business in the region.

      With improved security of cargo, East African importers can expect reduction in transit risk, leading to a decline in insurance premiums and ultimately reduction in transport costs. It is expected that lower costs of importing goods will trickle down to consumers in form of reduced prices of goods in the long term.

      How it works

      Using advanced technology such as electronic seals fixed on trucks, officers manning the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTs) can detect any illegal activity when a seal is tampered with or when a truck carrying the goods deviates from Geo-mapped route.                                                                                  

          Kenya Port Authority official attaching the electronic seal onto the container ready for transportation

      This is possible because the seal is loaded with important information about the truck such as the type of cargo it is carrying, driver’s details, truck details, container details, origin and the route it is supposed to travel to the final destination. Any tampering with the electronic seal or deviation from the defined route automatically sends alerts to the Command Center and the Rapid Response Unit stationed at the nearest post is promptly alerted to take action. Using a navigation system on a tablet, officers can trace a problem to the exact spot and both audio and video images re-rayed to the Command Center from the scene.

      Cargo safety

      In addition to improving safety of cargo, the ECTs will eliminate some of the loopholes in regional Customs laws that prescribe weak punishment for violation of customs procedures, partly blamed for smuggling. This is not only costing the regional Governments millions of shillings in tax revenue, but also threatens to drive out of business some tax compliant importers due to unfair competition.

      Under the East African Community Customs Management Act, an exporter or importer who deliberately breaks customs seal is fined $2,500 irrespective of the value of the taxes such a trader attempted to evade. East African Community officials say that such non-deterrent punishment often encourages non-compliance.

      Indeed, figures show that despite previous efforts to promote fair trade, illegal cargo continues to enter the countries through physical smuggling and technical violation of customs/transit procedures where tax evaders offload into the market goods not declared to customs.

      The ECTs will deal with this problem through real time monitoring and use of CCTV cameras to be installed at customs offices to minimize possible connivance between customs officers and traders; Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) devices that capture number plates of trucks as they enter or exit; as well as seals fixed on trucks to deter offloading of goods destined for another country.

      For example, when a cargo truck enters or exits any of the East African countries, CCTV cameras beam to the Command Center images to ascertain that the seal has not been tampered with. Images of the number plates are also captured and sent to the Command Center as one of the measures to minimize connivance by customs officers and transporters offload cargo declared as on transit.

      More benefits

      When drivers are aware that they are being monitored, they will do everything quickly and according to procedure. This reduces time wasting because the system sends an alert when a truck stays in a particular spot longer than needed. Importers who wish to monitor the movement of their goods can do so and this can help them know the exact time their goods would reach the market.

      On the other hand, customs officials may not have any excuse to delay validating bonds because all evidence about the arrival of trucks is captured in the system and can be retrieved any moment it is required. “When bond cancellation process is quick, it frees them for use on another consignment”, says Fred Seka, the Chairman to the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agents.

      In Uganda where ECTs is already in use through Trade Mark East Africa funding, the system helped traders cut the time required to transport cargo from entry border points (Malaba and Busia) from six days to one day and a half; subsequently pushing down transport costs. Transporters lose $200-$250 each day a truck spends while on transit and the cost of transport tends to increase for cargo destined further inland such as Rwanda.

      ECTs in Uganda has also removed the need for physical escorts that previously increased transit period from one day to 3-4 days, effectively resulting into an estimated increase in transport costs of about $400 -$500.

      “The ECTs is one of the many initiatives that TradeMark East Africa is supporting to ease and improve trade in East Africa”, explains Jackie Zizane, TMEA Programme Manager. “The system will not only enhance trade competitiveness through improved security of cargo along transit routes but also promote information exchange among the Revenue Authorities and the trading community”.


      Trademark East Africa - Uganda electronic cargo tracking system | TradeMark East Africa


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