Tanzania's Port e-cargo tracking to boost collection

Engagement of stakeholders in introducing electronic cargo tracking note (ECTN) system as ordered by Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) will start next month.

Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) Director of Information Communication Technology, Mr Phares Magesa said in Dar es Salaam last week that ECTN will help boost the authority and Tanzania Revenue Authority’s customs duty collection.

“ECTN will ensure that we get precise information on imports and exports from authorities at the port of departure,” said Mr Magesa and revealed that currently, both TPA and TRA rely on importers and exporters submitted documents which are often questionable.

He said next month, the process of introducing ECTN which was aborted in 2013 after Sumatra intervened, following an official complaint lodged by Tanzania Shipping Agents Association contesting the awarding of a contract to Belgian based Antaser Afrique without proper procedures.

“Introduction of ECTN is very important to us because it will boost our revenue in terms of wharfage collected but also to TRA in terms of customs,” Mr Magesa argued.

He pointed out that transparency and accountability will also be enhanced especially at the country’s prime port of Dar es Salaam.

‘Efficiency at Dar es Salaam port will also be improved, our target is to reduce dwell time from the current nine days to five days by the end of 2015,” the TPA ICT Director argued, saying Dar es Salaam port which serves six landlocked countries will become one of the most efficient ports in Africa.

He said the system which helps authorities know the real value of imported or exported goods through electronic communication would be rolled out at all seaports, airports and border posts of the country to help track cargo.

In 2013 soon after awarding Antaser Afrique BVBA the ECTN contract which was due to take off in September of that year, TASAA filed a complaint with Sumatra disputing the process of the tender awarding which violated the 2004 Public Procurement Act.

In a ruling delivered in August 2013, the then Sumatra, acting Director General, Ahmad Kilima ordered TPA to instruct Antaser Afrique BVBA to stop the process of introducing ECTN system by September 1, 2013.

“TPA should instruct Antaser BVBA to use the same channel (i.e. website) to inform shippers that the ECTN implementation has been stopped until further notice,” Mr Kilima said in the ruling which followed TASAA’s opposition.

The Sumatra acting DG’s ruling further instructed TPA to follow proper procedures as per existing regulations and also, “Conduct meaningful consultation with all key stakeholders with a view to establishing potential benefits and costs of the envisaged system.”

TPA signed a five year ECTN contract with Antaser Afrique BVBA to start giving the service effective September 1, 2013 a move which forced TASAA to seek Sumatra’s intervention. TASAA also argued that Antaser was given the ECTN system contract without following proper public procurement regulations.

Antaser got the tender without consultations with stakeholders while another company from France, Phoenix Cargo Security Limited, had started the process of making consultations with stakeholders since 2011.

Stakeholders were also opposed to the deal which gave the Belgian company, powers to decided how much will be charged for the service.

Experience from Nigeria where Antaser BVBA was contracted for a similar job, shows that it made Nigerian ports noncompetitive because of hiked costs of the service.

“Stakeholders will also decide on the payment of the service during our consultations,” said Mr Magesa who further dismissed arguments that ECTN will simply de duplication of the cargo tracking system provided free of charge by shipping lines and TRA through Tancis system.

Stakeholders fear that introduction of ECTN at Dar port will make its services more expensive hence fail to compete with Mombasa, Beira and other ports in the region which have no ECTN system.

“But every service comes at a cost, how much will that be will be decided by the port community through consultations,” Magesa who is also in charge of the project noted.

According to the contract signed between TPA and Antaser BVBA dated July 4, 2013, while it required that TPA ensures that consensus from all stakeholders is achieved, the question of pricing was left to the contracted company to decide.

In analysis published by TASAA at the peak of the crisis in 2013, based on data collected from the Belgian company’s operations in West Africa including Ghana which is the only Anglophone country to use the system, the total monetary cost on containers and motor vehicle cargo (without counting liquid cargo such as fuel) will be more than 100.4 million US dollars annually using 2012 cargo data records.

“In the short run, the cost of all imports will increase, shipments of motor vehicle units to Tanzania may face possible diversion to Mombasa port, a trend that had been the case four years ago when more than 35 per cent of all vehicle imports to Tanzania were passing through Mombasa port due to costly delays and inefficiencies at Dar port,” TASAA Executive Secretary, Elitunu Mallamia, argued in a statement.

Mr Mallamia further noted that had Sumatra supported the ECTN deal, local consumers would also have paid heavily. “Hundreds of billion shillings in the cost of ECTN would have been paid by the fishermen of Matema in Kyela, the cotton farmer of Sengerema in Mwanza and the investors whom we are still struggling to attract, government institutions and the economy as a whole.”

On assisting to boost government revenue and curb tax evasion, TASAA had an explanation, “At the moment, after cargo has been loaded onto the ship and Bill of Lading issued, the BL number can be used to track location of the cargo, its status, carrier and expected time of arrival among other details. Shipping companies offer this service free of charge to the user.

Further, TPA’s revenues are ad valorem, charged based on the customs declared value supplied to TRA by the shipper/ importer/exporter and verified by TRA’s own price databases.

TRA has heavily invested in computerisation of the customs procedures to a fairly good extent, especially in the support systems and databases to bolster their valuation capabilities in preamble,” he argued.

Experience from Nigeria where Antaser had a two year contract severed in 2011, also makes many port stakeholders worried. Nigerian Minister of Finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, abolished the ECTN deal in 2011 due to opposition from stakeholders.
Source: Daily News, reported by Finnigan wa Simbeye from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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