Globally, access to accurate information on cargo shipment continues to be a challenge, creating a loophole for loss of revenue as some unscrupulous exporters take advantage of the system to undervalue their products as well as pose security threat to the country.
For some, the long processes involved in clearing their shipments also serves as a disincentive for them to fully provide adequate information on their cargoes when exporting.
As a result, there is a global move to implement policies that would enable countries to screen and track cargos as part of efforts to deal with these challenges.
In Ghana, the case is not different, as these global drawbacks continue to impede the country’s attempts to position the ports as efficient trading hubs, prompting government to look for ways to enhance trade facilitation.
The Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN), a global platform for collection and management of commercial and logistical information relating to the cargo and ship from the port of loading to the port of discharge, is currently being implemented in some 22 African countries, and its successes has prompted government to sign on to the platform.
The justification of CTN implementation across Africa, and strictly by Customs Authorities is therefore anchored in several international conventions, projects and programmes globally.
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Initially, scheduled to commence on February 1, 2018 in Ghana, implementation has been reset as stakeholders in the sector continue to be engaged to understand the system before it fully rolls out.
CTN in Ghana
Currently, some importers provide inadequate information on their goods making it difficult for the Customs division to correctly verify the goods that are brought in, the volumes, weight etc. and in a bid to explore other means, they often resort to manual verification which comes with its own challenges.
In addressing this challenge, Customs Excise and Preventive Service of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has therefore decided to implement the Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) system which is used globally to be able to cure some of these drawbacks.
By adopting the CTN system into Ghana, Customs is seeking to modernize its operations to facilitate the movement of legitimate trade in line with international best practices.
Under the new system, exporters the world over, shipping cargo to Ghana will be expected to provide detailed and timely information about their shipment in advance on the global online platform.
Once implementation begins, the Customs division of the GRA and other stakeholders at the country’s ports can start their import review processes in advance.
As part of the system, all cargoes coming into the country must be covered by a CTN number, a unique loading certificate number which confirms detailed information about the cargo and the movement between ports.
It is this unique number that would give Customs and other relevant authorities the opportunity to effectively control, supervise and manage import traffic. The CTN number is mandatory, without which clearing of goods at the ports will not be possible.
A key component of CTN is that it gives advanced notification of shipment details before they even arrive at the destination port.
The CTN system allows Customs to verify information such as; description of cargo, weight, volume, type and value of the cargo, exporter/importer, mode of shipment and shipping route as well as the value of the freight.
Through this system, a common platform is thus created which allows each country to maintain important statistical data for future logistical monitoring.
Process made easier
Technology continues to change the face of transactions globally, and this system which is predominantly online, also gives room for shippers or forwarders to generate their CTN numbers online, as well as complete the shipment process through the same means.
They do not also have to go through a long process to generate this unique code as it can be done online by providing some basic information, uploading relevant supporting documents and then proceeds to make payments to generate the CTN number.
The shipper then has to validate the CTN number which is estimated to a maximum of seven days to complete.
Once validated, the CTN is then made electronically available online to the shipper or forwarder and the Customs authority at the destination and then proceed with the Bill of Lading and manifest.
Importers in Ghana must ensure that their respective shippers or forwarders at the port of origin provides them with a Valid CTN numbers that would be on all their shipping documents.
Cargo Tracking Notes Ghana Limited, an independent project consulting firm established to provide global online electronic services with regard to cargo shipment information, has been given the mandate by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance to see to the implementation of the system in Ghana.
Being an international company, CTN Group seeks ultimately to offer Customs Authorities across Africa the much needed platform for engagement and exchange of information.
Since it is operating globally, CTN Ghana is the sole representative to generate CTN number for all shipments from every loading port around the globe to Ghana.
The implementing company, CTN Ghana together with the Customs Division of the GRA has thus began the process and have met with various stakeholders ahead of the implementation of the CTN system in Ghana.
The stakeholder engagements was to introduce the system and also to take the concerns of those who would use the system in order to see how best to address them.
The team also engaged the media on the new system, its mode of operation as well as its benefits to the operations of Customs in Ghana.
During one of such engagements, a Management Consultant of CTN Ghana Limited, Mr Geofrrey Nyarko Cole, said the system would come at no cost to the importers, rather it would help block revenue loopholes created by the provision of inadequate information on cargo shipments.
CTN is not new. In Europe and America (where CTN evolved after the events of 9/11), it has tremendously improved pre-shipment information to these countries and helped them avert threats to their economies.
It is with these in mind that the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and other international organiSations such as the World Trade Organizations have ratified the needed protocols to ensure that all nations of the world conform to best international practices such as the use of the CTN, because of its enormous benefits.
A key feature of this project is the customs-to-customs engagement at different levels which hither to has never been the case on a common platform, which is the CTN.
The system, according to experts will help to avert the physical inspection of goods at the ports, the lifting of prices for goods due to lack of suspicion on the part of customs officials and also help improve the overall port efficiency, among many other benefits to the country.