Shipping & Logistics

EAC uniform cargo tracking plan to reduce trade delays

Electronic Cargo Tracking System station in Kigali, Rwanda. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Electronic Cargo Tracking System station in Kigali, Rwanda. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The East African trading bloc is set to adopt a uniform cargo tracking system as conflicting technologies being used are cited for border delays between Kenya and Tanzania.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda use a joint real-time Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) while Tanzania has a mobile-based digital scheme.

Officials say the incompatible technologies are responsible for delays at border points, which raises the cost of transporting goods in the region.

Every truck passing through Tanzania has to fix a permanent device that costs $1,000 (Sh103,000) while those crossing to Kenya and partner states cannot load transit cargo.

Following a meeting on September 8 between Kenya’s trade PS Chris Kiptoo and Tanzania counterpart Adolf Mkenda, the two countries agreed on the need to adopt a uniform regional cargo tracking system.

“Kenya reported that she was not aware of the existence of a mobile tracking system. The East Africa Community (EAC) partner states had their own cargo tracking system, but EAC Secretariat are in the process of developing and adopting a regional Electronic Cargo Tracking system from entry point across the EAC. Both parties to urge EAC Secretariat to expedite adoption of the regional electronic cargo tracking system,” read a statement.

The ECTS enables real time tracking of transit cargo from Mombasa port to its destination through an online platform monitored in the three countries. The Tanzania system tracks goods within its borders.

The ECTS system comprises satellites, a monitoring centre and special electronic seals fitted on cargo containers and trucks, which give the precise location of goods at any given time.

The systems triggers an alarm whenever there is diversion from the designated route, an unusually long stopover or when someone attempts to open a container.

The magnetic gadget is attached on the container’s rear and armed before the lorry leaves the port. It contains details about the container and lorry registration details including the driver’s contacts.

Any diversion from the transit route is viewed from the command centre in the three capitals of partner states with a team of customs officials and the police on patrol at different check points ready to respond to any violations triggered by the system.

“This one allows three countries to monitor the cargo in real time hence limiting the opportunity for any collusion to evade tax. It is a game-changer in the cross border trade and will go a long way to safeguard Kenya as a major transit point for cargo in this region,” said Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner-general, John Njiriani in an earlier interview.