Cargo tracking system for use by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) put in place by Webb Fontaine, a leading service provider for customs and trade automation, has come alive in Apapa Port.
This was confirmed to our reporter by Webb Fontaine’s Operations Manager in Nigeria, Vlad Ionescu.
Ionescu said the feat which is a breakthrough and major milestone in NCS modernisation drive will aid online, real-time, and live monitoring of containers within controlled areas in the customs zone at the port and outside of the port.
According to him, anomalies such as containers missing in transit, tampering with the seal, broaching, and removal of cargo before the examination can be easily detected and traced using the technology.
This will also change the narrative that neighbouring countries like Benin Republic are ahead of Nigeria in areas of customs and ports aided automation.
Customs officers trained by Webb Fontaine will operate the monitoring system that will aid in achieving more operational successes that could have been done manually.
The new system comes with many advantages including building shippers’ and port users’ confidence in theft prevention and curbing other unlawful activities.
It will save the cost and time of using too much manpower to provide escort services for cargoes in transit as their movements within a geo-fenced zone will be monitored.
Diversions of cargoes from specified movement itineraries will be swiftly detected with further preventive mechanisms activated to prevent loss or theft of cargo.
The feat in Apapa, which is will also serve as test run that will be replicated in other ports across Nigeria, will help to position the country as one with a competitive port, befitting for hub status in the West and Central African region.
Ionescu said “This cargo tracking system, during the pilot phase, will function in Apapa, between a Tin Can port terminal and one Inland Container Depots with many objectives, among which is to decongest the port and improve the revenue of the NCS.
“It is also a way of monitoring the containers that are moving between the port and the Inland Container Depots, which means NCS will have eyes on the containers at all times.
Therefore, if there is any attempt to tamper with the process, NCS can immediately flag it and start investigating the matter.
“The NCS will monitor the full process; we are in charge of training the officers that are going to operate and supervise the transit of the goods. Webb Fontaine has recently renovated and equipped a modern control with computer and big screen TVs. Customs officers sitting in this control room, using digital maps and the software deployed can follow all container movements and quickly act in case of any problem detected.
“By doing this, the port will be decongested, and all stakeholders like the terminal operators, ship owners, freight forwarders and all will be confident that when they move cargo from the port, things will not get lost and they will be safe.
“Also, unlike before that containers will have numerous escorts when moving out of the port, which required a huge manpower of officers needed to monitor and safeguard the cargo, this will not be necessary anymore.
“For now, we are in the pilot stage, and we are bringing in specialists to train NCS officers as well as the Inland Container Depot personnel involved in the process. For Customs, we’re going to train the trainers, we will prepare the trainers, who will then pass on the knowledge.
“The responsibility of training will fall to the Customs Service, because they know better how many people they want involved and those best suited for it.
“And once this is successful here, it will be replicated in ports all over Nigeria, and will be used as a base for tracking all goods in transit across the country, which is another activity that is important for the Nigeria Customs. The technology is also beneficial.
“Another exciting development is the automation of the Lagos Free Trade Zone, which is the first of its kind to benefit from this electronic process. And now, we are deploying this same electronic system to the rest of the Free Trade Zones in Nigeria” Ionescu said in Lagos.
Webb Fontaine has succeeded in automating the Lagos Free Zone, sitting on 82 hectares of land.
The Lagos Free Zone automation makes the complex stand out amidst 42 other free zones in the country being the first to be so technologically wired for trade.
It is the first free zone in the country to be proximate to the most modern and equipped Lekki Deep-Seaport.
Webb Fontaine’s trade solutions in Nigeria is presently impacting on more than 25 government agencies through automation of their processes and bringing Nigerian business world closer to what obtains in advanced economies where it is providing services.